- Bristol Myers Squibb is adding a viral vector production site in Libertyville, Illinois, to boost its manufacturing network for cancer cell therapies.
- The New York-based drugmaker is taking over the facility and current plant employees from Novartis. A transition period will take place over the course of 2023, Bristol Myers said Wednesday.
- In addition to an immediate increase in capacity for the drugmaker’s two existing CAR-T cell therapies, the company said the new manufacturing facility will help as it works to develop the next generation of treatments. “This development advances the company’s long-term ambitions in cell therapy,” Bristol Myers said.
Cell therapies are powerful weapons for treating some cancers, but the manufacturing required is complex and time-consuming. Bristol Myers has previously had difficulties producing enough of its two CAR-T cancer therapies to keep up with demand.
Bristol Myers won approval of both the lymphoma treatment Breyanzi and the multiple myeloma therapy Abecma in early 2021. They are personalized treatments that require a multi-week process during which a patient’s immune cells are extracted, shipped to a production site, genetically engineered to attack cancer and then reinfused into the patient.
Even as Bristol Myers has struggled with manufacturing, demand for the therapies has risen. Abecma sales jumped to $125 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, up from $69 million in the same period a year earlier. Breyanzi revenue climbed to $55 million from $40 million.
Executives say they are working to increase production capacity but are also highly mindful of maintaining quality in their processes. “These are complex drugs; they’re living products and you have to stay focused on your manufacturing success rate,” Christopher Boerner, executive vice president and chief commercialization officer, told investors on the company’s earnings call in February.
The facility in Libertyville specializes in viral vectors, benign viruses that are used to manipulate the immune cells into targeting cancer proteins. Novartis has used the Libertyville plant to produce its gene therapy Zolgensma in the past. However, last November the company said it would cease operations at the plant and lay off staff there.
Bristol Myers has cell therapy manufacturing facilities in Bothell, Washington; Warren, New Jersey; and Summit, New Jersey. It’s developing additional sites in Devens, Massachusetts, and Leiden, Netherlands.
A spokesperson for Bristol Myers confirmed in an email to BioPharma Dive that the company was leasing the facility from Novartis, and purchasing its assets.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from Bristol Myers