Lonza building viral therapies plant in Texas

With drugmakers seeing the potential of targeted drug therapies, contractors are looking for ways to cash in on their needs. Swiss bioservices company Lonza says it has a new facility underway in the U.S. to make viral therapy products, an area where it sees lots of upside.

Lonza said today that the 100,000-square-foot facility will be built in the Houston area. This new facility will more than double Lonza's capacity for the production of viral gene and virally modified cell products. The company didn't say how much it will invest in the project, which is slated to be complete in 2017. It will incorporate 8 modular cleanrooms for 2,000 L-scale production in single-use bioreactors. Both the facility and the site have room for expansion.

"The clinical landscape for targeted gene therapies continues to grow at a steady rate with new advancements in cancer immunotherapies and cardiovascular disease," Andreas Weiler said in a statement. Weiler leads Lonza's Pharma & Biotech emerging technologies area. 

Lonza is just one of a number of companies building up their cell manufacturing and related services. Tokyo-based Fujifilm said in March that it would pay more than $300 million for Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), a Wisconsin company that also has operations in Novato, CA. It said that CDI's technology platform can produce industrial-scale quantities of human cells, including iPSCs, which have the ability to self-renew and become any cell type in the body. Viruses are used to introduce the reprogramming factors into adult cells. Lonza has its own pluripotent stem cell center in Europe.

But not all of the company's endeavors in biologics have panned out as well. Last year it closed a biologics plant in Hopkinton, MA, laying off 250 employees. The Hopkinton facility had struggled with FDA issues since at least 2011, when it received an FDA warning letter, focused on failed batches of an API manufactured for Ontak, a cancer drug from Japanese drugmaker Eisai.

- here's the release