Transgene to shutter French viral vector plant following Novartis snub

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

The 20 year old Transgene plant near Strasbourg, France is set to close as the firm opts to outsource
The 20 year old Transgene plant near Strasbourg, France is set to close as the firm opts to outsource

Related tags Pharmaceutical industry Novartis

Transgene will close a biomanufacturing facility with the loss of 120 jobs to cut costs after Novartis pulled out of an immunotherapy collaboration last year.

The French biotech said it will close its clinical-scale biomanufacturing facility in Illkirch, near Strasbourg, and instead outsource production to third parties, explaining that it needs to refocus resources.

“When we built our manufacturing unit approximately 20 years ago, there were few options for manufacturing high quality viral vector-based immunotherapies,”​ Transgene spokesperson Laurie Doyle told

“Today that has changed and we have the option to outsource this capability to third parties at a reasonable cost.  Our move away from a vertical integration model will enable us to focus our resources on advancing our clinical development profile, as well as on R&D, especially translational research.”

Transgene’s lead candidate is TG4010, a recombinant vaccinia virus of the Ankara strain (MVA) expressing the coding sequences of the MUC1 antigen and of the cytokine, Interleukin-2 (IL2), currently in Phase IIb clinical trials for non-small cell lung cancer.

In 2010, Novartis paid $10m for the exclusive license option for the development and marketing of the immunotherapy but last year Transgene took a hit when the Swiss Pharma Giant chose not to execute on the deal, eliminating up to €700m ($800m) in potential revenues, a key factor in the restructure and closure of the plant.

It is fair to say that Novartis' decision did increase the urgency of taking these steps,”​ said Doyle.

The closure of Illkirch is expected to result in the loss of 120 manufacturing and pharmaceutical development jobs. However, the company has received a proposal from ABL, a US subsidiary of Institut Mérieux, under which ABL would offer positions to a number of Transgene’s employees involved in manufacturing and related activities.

Meanwhile the restructure will not affect a €10m viral vector manufacturing plant Transgene is currently building in a joint venture with Sanofi​, Doyle told us.

“The agreement with Sanofi is for commercial production and will not be affected by our announcement.”

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