Sana Biotechnology ditches California manufacturing plans in bid to save $100M

Sana Biotechnology, which raised a whopping $588 million in its initial public offering last year, has inked a deal for new manufacturing space.

The preclinical-stage biotech is ditching plans to run its manufacturing operations in Fremont, California, and instead plans new manufacturing digs in Bothell, Washington. The company expects the move to save it about $100 million in expenses over three years.

The company had been in the design stages of the Fremont site and will "leverage the design principles from the Fremont facility" in its Bothell plans, a spokesperson said.

Although Sana will continue to use CDMO partners to generate trial production capacity, the new 80,000-square-foot facility will support the company’s multiple cell and gene therapy candidates. The company, a Fierce 15 winner in 2020, didn't disclose a timeline for the new plant build-out.

The move won't affect the company's development timeline, but it will allow Sana to build its internal manufacturing capabilities "in a more cost-effective manner,” Steve Harr, president and chief executive for Sana, said in a statement.

“Importantly, we continue to attract the strong talent needed to execute on this vision and our pipeline more broadly," he added.

To that last point by Harr, Sana also announced it hired Snehal Patel to head internal and external manufacturing, and Julie Lepin to oversee regulatory affairs.

Prior to joining Sana, Patel was global head and vice president for cell therapy manufacturing at Bristol Myers Squibb. Lepin was previously Amgen’s vice president of regulatory affairs for oncology. 

Meanwhile, California-based drugmaker Gilead Sciences on Thursday appointed former Sana exec Stacey Ma as its own executive vice president of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing. At Sana, Ma served as head of technical operations.

Sana was most recently in the news for shelling out as much as $204 million in biobucks as part of a deal for nonexclusive access to a BCMA CAR construct from IASO Biotherapeutics and partner Innovent Biologics.  The construct is part of IASO and Innovent's autologous BCMA-directed CAR-T cell therapy, CT103A, that is in a phase 1/2 study in patients with relapsed and/or refractory multiple myeloma (RRMM) in China. 

Sana's multiple myeloma pipeline, which is entirely preclinical, includes two BCMA in vivo cell engineering candidates and one donor-derived ex vivo cell engineering candidate. 

The company has said it hopes to enter multiple clinical trials next year for multiple myeloma.