Pfizer, which is in a race with competitors for its initial gene therapies, is shifting its production efforts into overdrive. The company will inject another $500 million into a manufacturing plant in North Carolina and says it will hire another 300 workers.
The half-billion dollar investment is on top of the $100 million it committed to the Sanford, North Carolina, project in 2017, Pfizer said today. The facility will provide backing to its gene therapy work at Pfizer's Chapel Hill and Kit Creek R&D facilities. It says the larger plant will add to both its clinical and commercial scale production capabilities for its work on potential genetic cures using recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors..
“We’re excited to build this new state-of-the-art facility in Sanford because it will have the potential to help us develop novel methods to deliver transformative treatments to patients,” Angela Hwang, president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, said in a statement.
Pfizer started on the project a couple of years ago, saying it would expand an 11,000-square-foot plant in Sanford that it acquired when it bought gene therapies biotech Bamboo Therapeutics. At that time, it projected the expansion would come with about 40 jobs. The 300 hires it now intends to make will bring the Pfizer headcount to about 650 at Sanford, where workers also manufacture components for the company’s vaccine portfolio.
Pfizer has several gene therapy programs it is shepherding through its pipeline. It and partner Sangamo Therapeutics last month shared a positive update on the durability of responses to their hemophilia A gene therapy. The sneak preview gave encouragement to those who believe it will outflank other assets including Spark Therapeutics’ SPK-8011 and BioMarin’s valrox. BioMarin this month dropped development of a lower dose of its valrox treatment in an effort to get its applications to regulators by year-end.
Pfizer also released data this summer on its Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene therapy. That early clinical update showed that one of the first six people to receive the treatment was hospitalized with acute renal injury. The results led analysts to give the edge to a competing effort from Sarepta Therapeutics.