Lonza expands antibody-drug conjugate production pact, plots 180 new hires

The abrupt departure of Lonza’s CEO last month clearly hasn’t dampened the Swiss CDMO’s dealmaking prowess.

Thursday, the company unveiled a manufacturing expansion as part of an evolving production pact that’s set to create nearly 200 new jobs at “one of the largest bioconjugation facilities globally.”

Lonza has extended a long-term collaboration with an unnamed “major global biopharmaceutical partner” to crank up commercial supplies of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) at its site in Visp, Switzerland. The deal is set to boost Lonza’s current bioconjugation capacity fourfold, thanks to the addition of two new bioconjugation suites in Visp, the CDMO said in a release.

ADCs are complex bioconjugates often used to fight cancer. They consist of a potent cytotoxic agent, a stable linker and a targeted monoclonal antibody (mAb), Lonza explained. Lonza says it produces the “majority” of commercially available ADCs.

The new bioconjugation suites will occupy 1,500 square meters (16,146 square feet) of “highly automated” production space. The twin manufacturing areas are set to comprise one of the “largest bioconjugation facilities” in the world, the company added.

Lonza plans to hire some 180 new workers to staff the suites, where operations are expected to come online in 2026.

The CDMO is keeping the identity of its production partner close to the vest, saying only that it provides its partner with highly potent payload, drug-linker and conjugation services as well as commercial mAb manufacturing from a single site at Visp.

Lonza’s expanded partnership comes less than a month after the CDMO revealed its chief executive Pierre-Alain Ruffieux was stepping down at the end of September. Chairman Albert Baehny has taken over as interim CEO—a role he previously held in 2020.

In light of Ruffieux’s departure, Lonza has said it will lay out its medium-term strategy at a capital markets day this month in Switzerland.

Despite some turbulence at the top, Lonza has charted several impressive deals and expansions this year.

Late last month, the CDMO amended its production contract with bluebird bio to increase manufacturing capacity for bluebird’s pricey gene therapies Zynteglo and Skysona.

Meanwhile, Lonza in June teamed up with Vertex Pharmaceuticals to support production of the company’s experimental cell therapy VX-880, plus a second clinical candidate for Type 1 diabetes, VX-264.

Further, the companies are co-investing in the build-out of a new manufacturing facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which will be operated by Lonza and employ up to 300 staffers across 130,000 square feet of real estate.

And, at the start of 2023, Lonza completed the expansion of its small molecules production facility in Bend, Oregon. The project included remodeling of lab space used to develop early-stage compounds.