Astellas on Friday said it will spend $70 million to build a new research center in South San Francisco, planning to house several business units in one central facility.
The 154,000-square-foot site, which Astellas expects to open next summer, will bring together the West Coast employees of several divisions, including Astellas Gene Therapies, Xyphos Biosciences, Rx+ Business Accelerator and Astellas’ business development team.
Astellas envisions the center mirroring its research hub in the Boston area, taking advantage of the concentration of biotechnology companies that regularly dot the San Francisco Bay Area and the employees who work for them.
Cell and gene therapy, two areas Astellas has invested in recently, will be a focus for the center, the company indicated in its July 22 statement. The site will include both research laboratories and office spaces.
Astellas’ investment follows a little more than one month after the Japan-headquartered pharmaceutical company opened a $100 million manufacturing plant in North Carolina that’s meant to supply gene therapies for clinical testing or commercial sale.
Astellas has put money into cell and gene therapy for years, acquiring companies like Ocata Therapeutics and Quethera in 2015 and 2018. Its biggest move to date was a $3 billion acquisition of the San Francisco-based gene therapy developer Audentes Therapeutics. The buyout gave Astellas a pipeline of experimental medicines led by a treatment for a genetic muscle disease known as X-linked myotubular myopathy.
But the safety of that therapy is in question after the deaths of four young boys in the company’s clinical trial, leading to multiple study halts.
More recently, the Food and Drug Administration put on hold another trial testing the company’s Pompe disease gene therapy. Astellas has also discontinued three gene therapy programs for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.