Pfizer leans into gene therapy manufacturing with 'build-buy-partner' strategy

Rendering of Pfizer gene therapy facility
Pfizer has invested around $800 million into its North Carolina gene therapy sites, including this one in Sanford. (Pfizer)

In the bustling cell and gene therapy field, manufacturing is a major hurdle for drugmakers hoping to bring 10 to 20 new products to market each year in the coming decade. Pfizer has invested big money in production capacity—and it's ready to use it not only for its in-house candidates, but for partners, too.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and gene therapy maker Vivet Therapeutics partnered on a manufacturing deal for a Wilson's disease candidate that will be produced at Pfizer's Chapel Hill, North Carolina plant, the companies said. 

The pact is part of Pfizer's "build-buy-partner" strategy, according to a spokesman, in which Pfizer builds gene therapy muscle by acquiring stakes in promising biotechs and then partners to bring their manufacturing processes in house.

Pfizer acquired a 15% minority stake in Vivet back in May 2019 with an exclusive option to buy the company outright. 

In the past few years, Pfizer has invested around $800 million to expand three facilities in North Carolina—including the Chapel Hill site—in what a spokesman called "arguably the largest investment" in the gene therapy field. The facilities total 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space. 

All that square footage means Pfizer can manufacture multiple gene therapy candidates "in parallel," the spokesman said, and Pfizer has left the door open to bringing on other partners as part of its scheme. 

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