Real estate group creating $1.1B gene therapy CDMO at former GSK site

The real estate impresario that built a chain of upscale drug recovery facilities is now jumping on a new trend. Brian O’Neil’s MLP Ventures says it is creating a CDMO and building a $1.1 billion gene and cell treatment manufacturing operation in a former GlaxoSmithKline site near Philadelphia.

The Center for Breakthrough Medicines will be located at The Discovery Labs, the 1.6 million-square-foot bioscience co-working space MLP is developing in the former GSK facilities is slated to occupy about 40% of that space. MLP has partnered with Deerfield Management Company on the project. 

The Discovery Labs chairman is Marco A. Chacón, who last year sold his Paragon Bioservices gene therapy CDMO to Catalent for $1.2 billion. 

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"The Center for Breakthrough Medicines will be serving companies from the earliest stages through commercialization,” Audrey Greenberg, executive managing director for The Discovery Labs, said in a statement. “Its exceptional scale and offering will quickly relieve the production bottleneck for advanced therapies by reducing the time, complexity, and cost of commercializing vitally needed gene and cell therapies." 

Alex Karnal managing director of Deerfield Management pointed to a "scarcity of manufacturing knowhow" for gene therapies as one of the motivations for the project. 

The superlative-filled announcement says the partners are building out 86 plasmid, viral vector production, universal cell processing, CGMP testing, process development and cell banking suites at the campus. They also have kicked off a hiring effort through recruiting firm Nucleus Careers for GMP manufacturing and other experts and expects to hire 2,000 employees in the next 30 months. 

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The Discovery Labs also will house The Colony, which will have custom labs and other resources in an attempt to attract top scientific talent.

GlaxoSmithKline sold the campus to O'Neil Properties, now MLP Ventures, during a period of retrenchment several years ago. O'Neil's other ventures included founding the substance abuse treatment chain Recovery Centers of America. GSK kept its nearby “East Campus,” which houses a biologics manufacturing site. Glaxo last year unveiled $120 million in upgrades at the facility.