WuXi PharmaTech expands cell therapy manufacturing in U.S.

Chinese pharma services company WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) reported 15% growth last year, propelled by its manufacturing business, and said it expected to see similar growth this year. It is investing to maintain its momentum and has kicked off construction on a new facility in Philadelphia that will help achieve its expansion goals.

The company said the new operation will manufacture cell therapies. Slated to be complete in the second quarter of 2015, it will encompass 45,000 square feet of clinical and commercial manufacturing space and use a modular design, with flexible clean-room technology, disposable equipment and microcarrier cell culture systems. That will be added to an existing 16,000-square-foot facility in the Philadelphia Navy Yard where WuXi has its existing cell therapy operations, including cell banking, cell characterization, molecular biology and lot release testing. The company said it is seeing demand from customers who want single-source contract development and manufacturing for allogeneic and autologous cell-based therapies. The company did not say how much it will invest in the expansion.

WuXi Pharma has expanded in other areas as well. In 2012, the company opened a biologics plant in Shanghai to initially serve a joint venture it has with AstraZeneca's ($AZN) biologics arm, MedImmune. They have a deal to develop an IL-6 inhibitor to treat rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disorders that is being developed for the Chinese market.

WuXi Pharma is not the only company to recently announce that it was adding cell therapy manufacturing capacity. NeoStem, the New York-based developer and manufacturer of cell therapies, is picking up another California plant with its all-stock acquisition of California Stem Cell (CSC), which was announced April 14.

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