U.S. biotech buying Belgian cell manufacturer for $25M

U.S.-based Orgenesis has been contracting for the sophisticated manufacturing capabilities of MaSTherCell as it moves to clinical trials with its process to reprogram human liver cells in people with Type 1 diabetes into insulin-producing cells. Now it will own them.

The Germantown, MD, biotech will acquire MaSTherCell in an exchange of shares that is valued at $24.6 million. Orgenesis is traded over the counter. MaSTherCell, a contract development and manufacturing company based in Brussels, is a spinoff of the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Orgenesis CEO Vered Caplan said after the deal is complete, the two companies will continue to operate independently while getting something from each other. "As a result of the acquisition, Orgenesis benefits from deeper involvement in the manufacturing process and resulting cost of goods efficiencies, while MaSTherCell benefits by expanding its international presence and by gaining access to public markets and financing for further technology-based investment," Caplan said in a statement.

MaSTherCell CEO Hugues Bultot concurred. By combining, he said his company would "be able to more quickly capitalize on our desires to expand our cell-based therapeutic contract development and manufacturing services internationally."

With developments in a number of areas like cancer immunotherapy, there has been a surge in companies offering contract cell manufacturing. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies said last year it would add identical 2000-L single-use bioreactors to its plants in Research Triangle Park, NC, and Billingham, U.K., to expand its cell culture manufacturing. And Chinese pharma services company WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) said last year it would expand its cell therapy manufacturing at its facility in Philadelphia. Earlier this month the U.K. started taking bids for the erection of a £55 million ($85 million) cell manufacturing facility on the Stevenage Bioscience campus outside of London. The government is paying for the facility to boost the country's chances of drawing more drug development and manufacturing in the specialized area.

- here's the Orgenesis release