Lonza to make commercial gene therapies for Bluebird bio at new Texas site

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock/ktsimage
Image: iStock/ktsimage

Related tags: Dna

Increased demand for gene therapy services will drive further investment in Lonza's capabilities, the firm says as it inks a strategic deal with Bluebird.

The Swiss contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) has provided Bluebird with clinical manufacturing services for its autologous gene therapy candidates Lenti-D and LentiGlobin, and will now provide commercial manufacturing capabilities from its site in Houston, Texas which is currently under construction.

Lenti-D is a therapy intended to prevent progression of cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (CALD). Production involves inserting a functional copy of the ABCD1 gene in the patient’s hematopoietic stem cells outside the body, then re-introducing the genetically modified cells into the patient.

Lentiglobin, meanwhile is focused on severe sickle cell disease (SCD) and involves inserting functional human beta-globin gene into the stem cells ex vivo​, which are then infused back in the patient.

Lonza told Biopharma-Reporter that while it is completing the suite design, construction and validation prior to the anticipated commercial for Bluebird’s products at the site, the facility had been commissioned to service a growing demand in this field.

“There is a solid and increasing market demand for gene therapy services,”​ spokesperson Dirk Oehlers said.

“Lonza has been highly active in this field for many years and we have the capabilities to serve our customers, like Bluebird and others.”​ Since the CDMO announced the new facility last year​, it has announced a number of customer deals including manufacturing a heart failure therapy for Renova​.

Oehlers added further construction on its way is “designed for serving this market demand and increasing needs.”

Large-scale transfection tech

In related news, Lonza has launched this week the 4D-Nucleofector LV Unit to its transfection platforms, used to study and control gene expression by delivering DNA or RNA and proteins into cells.

The tech allows smoother scale-up in transfection protocols, including within translational research – such as genome editing or the generation of CAR-T cells for ex vivo​ cell therapies which require the generation of large numbers of transiently modified cell lines or primary cells.

“The new addition of a larger-scale transfection format allows us to accompany scientists as they translate the results of their research applications into potential therapeutic applications,”​ said Herbert Mueller-Hartmann, head of research and technology at Lonza.

“What is really unique to our technology is the fact that the same transfection conditions can be used throughout our various conductive polymer-based platforms, which allows for real scalability.” 

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