- Swiss contracting giant Lonza has increased its equity stake in Octane Biotech, acquiring a controlling stake along with an option to take full ownership for an undisclosed sum.
- The deal is focused on development of Octane's cell therapy production platform, and expands a 2015 collaboration between the two companies.
- Lonza has invested heavily in its expansion into cell and gene therapy, opening earlier this year what it claims is the world's largest plant dedicated to the production of the complex medicines.
Manufacturing is one of the tallest hurdles standing in the way of large-scale manufacturing of personalized, autologous cell therapies. Current processes are labor-intensive and take between two to three weeks between cell extraction and reinfusion back into patients.
Gene therapy, meanwhile, presents its own challenges, not least of which is ensuring a steady supply of the viral vectors used to deliver the treatments into the body.
Betting on the future potential of these medicines, however, many companies in the field are opening or expanding manufacturing operations. Lonza, as one of the largest contract development and manufacturing organizations in the world, is expecting that some will seek to outsource their production needs rather than build their own facilities.
With Octane, Lonza has helped to deliver a system dubbed "Cocoon." By Lonza's description, Cocoon is capable of closed and automated cell therapy manufacturing for mesenchymal stem cells and CAR-T cells.
Closed and automated systems are preferable because of improved process control and lower contamination risk — attributes that could yield better cell quality.
"This acquisition is a clear message to the market that we are committed to making commercially viable and scalable personalized therapies a reality," said Marc Funk, Lonza's chief operating officer, in a statement.
The 24 employees at Octane Biotech's site in Kingston, Ontario, will not be affected by the deal, and Cocoon system-related activities will be supported by Lonza's autologous cell therapy R&D group in Maryland.
Lonza also has a number of other autologous cell therapy offerings and is incorporating the Cocoon technology into work with its customers.
Lonza has also been busy expanding, standing up four cell and gene therapy centers in in the U.S., the Netherlands and Singapore. It's not all plant openings and hiring though. Restructuring has led Lonza to recently lay off employees at a Walkersville, Maryland site.