Pharmaron snares UK grant to scale out cell and gene facility it bought from AbbVie

A major makeover is underway at a former AbbVie biologics plant in England, which Pharmaron purchased for $119 million in 2021.

In January, the Chinese CDMO kicked off construction on a more than 8,000-square-meter (86,111-square-foot) expansion of its viral vector and nucleic acid manufacturing facilities in Liverpool, England. The project—fueled by a total investment of 151 million pounds sterling ($186 million)—is backed by a grant from the U.K.’s Life Sciences Innovation Manufacturing Fund, Pharmaron said Wednesday.

The expansion is set to create additional jobs across Pharmaron’s scientific team, though the company did not specify exactly how many roles it plans to add.

The Liverpool build-out is expected to wrap up in 2024, the company said in a press release. The facility will remain operational during the project, Pharmaron added.

Branding the move a “major expansion,” Pharmaron says the project will increase its gene therapy process development firepower fourfold. The same will be true of its analytical capacity for viral vectors, DNA and RNA drug substances, plus drug product formulation, the company said.

A little less than half of the expansion space will be devoted to future commercial-scale manufacturing capacity, the company said.

After picking up the CGT plant from AbbVie in March of 2021, Pharmaron says it has “rapidly added customers," with 29 gene therapy and vaccine projects running at the end of last year. The expansion is designed to allow the growth pace to continue, the company said.

With roots in China, Pharmaron has been doubling down on its U.K. presence in recent years. In early 2022, the company appointed Merck & Co. veteran Tony Davies as its new president of U.K. chemistry, manufacturing and controls.

That same month, Pharmaron snapped up a British drug ingredients plant from Recipharm for an undisclosed sum. The site, located in Newcastle, had been operating under Aesica Pharmaceuticals. It boasts more than 100 cubic meters of commercial reactor capacity and carries approvals from numerous regulatory agencies, including the U.S. FDA.