U.K. building $85M cell therapy manufacturing operation

The Cell Therapy Catapult is part of a government program created a couple of years ago to pump up the cell therapy industry in the U.K. The group plans to invest more than $85 million to build a large-scale cell manufacturing facility in Stevenage that companies can contract with for early-stage to commercial work.

The organization said Tuesday that the £55 million manufacturing operation is being built at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus and is expected to be finished in 2017 and employ about 150 people.

U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable

"This state of the art facility in Stevenage will ensure Britain can be a real leader in this industry," U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable said in a statement.

Kieran Murphy, CEO of U.S.-based GE Healthcare Life Sciences and a native of the U.K., told Pharmafile that the center will be an important asset for small companies looking to bring biologics to market. "The toughest nut for cell therapy companies to crack is to scale up manufacturing and subsequent distribution of these therapies so they are affordable and accessible to patients globally," he said. "This manufacturing centre will help companies to crack that nut."

The center is one of several efforts being pushed by the government to scratch out a place for the U.K. in biologic drug development and manufacturing. Earlier this year, it announced it was investing £38 million ($63.8 million) to create the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Darlington. It is part of the country's "High Value Manufacturing Catapult" effort started several years ago and is to work with companies to get ideas from research to finished product. The facility, which will be operated by the U.K.'s Centre for Process Innovation, is slated to be completed next year.

One company that has been doing biologics and cell therapy work in the U.K. is Fujifilm. Three years ago, it paid $490 million to buy the former Merck ($MRK) BioManufacturing Network, which had a facility in Billingham as well as in Research Triangle Park, NC, in the U.S. Last year it opened a cell-banking facility at Billingham, which will be used for projects at both former Merck plants. It has also expanded its mammalian cell manufacturing capacity in the U.K.

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