In May 2015, Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics acquired German biotech Stage Cell Therapeutics GmbH for €52.5m ($58m), adding cell selection and activation capabilities and manufacturing automation technologies to support its cellular therapy pipeline.
And during a conference call discussing its Q1 2017 results yesterday, CEO Hans Bishop revealed the integration of the platform is leading Juno to speed up its T Cell manufacturing process.
“As a result of the acquisition and some technologies we made from a German company called Stage, we're actively working on a completely new set of manufacturing technologies that have the potential to generate CAR T cells in around two days,” he told stakeholders. Currently the cultivation of T cells may take anything from several days to weeks, depending on the process.
“We continue to make solid progress with those technologies. It’s a two-part system; one relies on a new automated instrument and the other relies on some novel reagents that work specifically with that instrument.
The manufacture of Juno’s biologics involves complex processes, including harvesting T cells from patients, genetically modifying the T cells ex vivo, multiplying the T cells to obtain the desired dose, and infusing the T cells back into a patient’s body.
“Once we're ready to move into the clinic we’ll give you more detail. But we continue to be encouraged with the application and with the potential of that technology.”
Automation technologies have been said by experts within the industry to be key components of cell and gene therapies going forward, and a number of companies – both drugmakers and equipment vendors – have been investing in the space specifically for that purpose.
For the first quarter, revenue sat at $19.3m up from $9.8m for the same quarter 2016. Juno’s cash position stood at $70m less than in 2016 at $850m, contributed in part to a $21m layout for the purchase of manufacturing equipment and costs associated with the build out of a planned headquarters facility.