As viral vector demand surges, fledgling CDMO Matica establishes a beachhead in Texas

A lack of global capacity to produce cell and gene therapies has been exacerbated by an even more pressing need: to develop and manufacture coronavirus vaccines.

So it appears the timing is right for Matica Biotechnology, a developer and producer of viral vectors, to put down roots in the United States.

The brand-new CDMO has teamed up with Texas A&M University and its advanced manufacturing center and started work on a 25,000 square-foot viral vector plant near the university's College Station campus.

“With the scramble to develop vaccines, therapies and even diagnostics, it has hit manufacturing capacity,” said Andrew Arrage, chief commercial officer for Matica. “It has just introduced an additional strain. A lot of the capacity has been subsumed by the race to develop products to address the pandemic.”

But Matica's gene therapy ambitions extend well beyond the pandemic. A subsidiary of South Korea-based CHA Biotech, Matica is starting out with this foothold in the U.S., but CHA is planning a much larger facility in its home country within two years.

CHA’s network includes a university, a research institute and 66 hospitals and clinics in seven countries. CHA already has a significant presence in the U.S., with established links to hospitals, companies and R&D centers. It will look to Matica to exploit those relationships and attract viral vector business. 

Doing this from Texas, far from pharma hotspots such as Boston and San Francisco, might seem difficult. But Matica has plenty of reasons for its choice.

One is Matica’s partnership with Texas A&M. The agreement provides for joint R&D projects with the school’s Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, which aims to speed up biotech R&D and commercial manufacturing.

“They’re developing technologies to improve manufacturing efficiencies, for example,” Arrage said. “Having that local resource next door, be it additional capacity, be it the ability to exchange ideas across the fence, really is a benefit for us and hopefully for them.”

College Station checks a lot of other boxes as well, Matica figures. The area is a growing technology center, but unlike larger hubs, it has a moderate cost of living. It’s allowed Matica to attract sharp, experienced prospects. The area also includes lots of homegrown talent, said Arrange, who added that he expects the facility to employ 120 to 130 people.

It all adds up to an exciting future for Matica with lots of growth potential, Arrage said. The company knows the demand will be there. 

“We’re starting off in the U.S. on a smaller scale and then having a presence in Asia as well in a much larger scale,” Arrage said. “So we’ll be able to take care of our clients’ needs as they grow from developing new therapies in the clinic and then to commercialization and worldwide distribution. We’re taking a staged approach with this.”