Novo Nordisk Foundation pumps $136M into new clinical cell therapy manufacturing 'hub' in Denmark

Looking to establish a “hub” in the cell therapy ecosystem, the Novo Nordisk Foundation is pumping 950 million Danish kroner (about $136 million) into a new clinical production site at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Lyngby.

Dubbed the Cellerator, the facility will cater to public and private clients in academia, biotech and the pharmaceutical industry. Construction is due to kick off next summer, and the site is expected to be operational in 2027, the Novo Nordisk Foundation said in a release.

The center is being established to bridge a "critical gap" in the current cell therapy ecosystem, Thomas H.R. Carlsen, CEO of the Cellerator, said in an interview.

As it stands, many cell therapies that undergo successful testing in the lab don’t make it to human trials, Carlsen said. That’s because those therapeutics are difficult to develop and manufacture at scale.

That's where the Novo Nordisk Foundation is stepping in. The Cellerator will be used to advance testing on cell therapies that have gone through successful testing in animals plus to manufacture those therapies “consistently and at scale for early clinical trials,” the foundation said.

The group plans to support a range of cell therapy types, including those derived from embryonic stem cells, pluripotent stem cells and adult stem cells. The Cellerator's service offerings will run the gamut from process development and manufacturing to product release and regulatory support.

The site's footprint is set to cover 5,000 square meters (53,820 square feet), Carlsen said. That includes both development laboratories for process development plus space for manufacturing, he said.

As it stands, the Cellerator has “just shy” of 10 employees who are specialized in cell therapy development and manufacturing, Carlsen said. The group ultimately hopes to employ around 70 staffers at the plant.

Right now, however, there is a “major workforce gap within the field," the CEO added. The foundation hopes to resolve staffing issues through its partnership with the DTU.

The Cellerator is poised to become the first large-scale production site for cell therapies in Denmark, where a few hospitals already have small-scale facilities for production. Aside from filling a gap in the Danish cell therapy ecosystem, the Cellerator will cater to international clients, too, the foundation said.

Novo is touting the facility as a potential “knowledge hub for Denmark and Europe,” and the foundation has already started forming partnerships around the site.

The Cellerator will be rolled out as a limited liability company fully owned and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and operated as an independent philanthropic initiative.

As a spinout of the foundation, all of the cash generated by the Cellerator will be reinvested in the company, Carlsen said.