- Pfizer is opening a $68.5 million gene therapy manufacturing plant in Durham, North Carolina, amid high expectations for the burgeoning field.
- The site is part of the company’s $800 million, six-year investment to build three gene therapy manufacturing facilities. As a result, the New York-based drugmaker says it has one of the largest production capacities in the world for gene therapy vectors.
- Pfizer's BioTherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences Group, which manufactures and analyzes clinical supplies of gene therapies and biologics, will now make its home in Durham. The unit expects to create 50 new jobs in coming years and add about 40 Pfizer employees who will relocate from a site in nearby Chapel Hill.
For people living with rare diseases, gene therapy offers the chance at a cure, and Pfizer calls it "the next wave of innovation." But development of the new treatments is difficult, with both manufacturers and regulators still finding their way in the field.
Pfizer currently has 12 gene therapy programs at the preclinical stage and three more in human testing. All three clinical-stage programs, for hemophilia A, hemophilia B and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, are producing results more slowly than the drugmaker initially expected.
Still, Pfizer is moving quickly to build its manufacturing capacity in the expectation of a major opportunity in gene therapy. The company has also poured money into facilities in other places in North Carolina, a state that has recently drawn more interest from drugmakers.
In just the last few years, North Carolina has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from gene therapy developers including Bluebird, Audentes and Biogen. Billions more have come from companies building traditional drug manufacturing facilities, including Eli Lilly, Amgen and Fujifilm.