Bluebird taps Lonza to boost manufacturing capacity for its gene therapies Zynteglo, Skysona

As bluebird bio’s pricey gene therapy launches take flight, the company is boosting manufacturing capacity with Swiss CDMO Lonza.

Bluebird and Lonza recently amended their production contract for the second time since the deal was announced in summer of 2016. Under the updated deal, Lonza has agreed to increase manufacturing capacity for bluebird’s therapies Zynteglo and Skysona, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing published Wednesday.

Additionally, the partners revised fee scheduling, including changes to the deal’s payment structure that are “designed to better align with [bluebird’s] business objectives.”

The specific financial details of the amended deal were not disclosed.

Under the original deal, announced in June 2016, Lonza agreed to manufacture Zynteglo and Skysona at its facility in Houston.

After closing up shop in Europe in 2021, bluebird snagged successive U.S. approvals for Zynteglo and Skysona in 2022.

First, in August 2022, the FDA approved Zynteglo as a one-time beta thalassemia treatment, which bluebird rolled out with a price tag of $2.8 million per patient.

About a month later, bluebird broke its own pricing record when Skysona won FDA backing in the rare neurological disorder cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy. The company priced that gene therapy at $3 million per treatment.

The launches come at a critical time for bluebird bio. The company last year axed 30% of its workforce to cut costs, and, in January, it sold stock to stretch out its cash runway. Now, bluebird expects it can operate at least until the end of 2024.

By that time, the company is hoping sales from the drug launches can cover operating costs.

Meanwhile, the company is working to gain approval for its sickle cell disease gene therapy lovo-cel, which is expected to be bluebird's largest near-term commercial opportunity. The drug is up for an FDA decision by Dec. 20.