Lonza invests in ‘game-changer’ automated cell therapy manufacture
Cocoon, a closed and fully automated system, has been developed to manufacture mesenchymal stem cells and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells.
According to Lonza, the closed system of production “enables superior process control, leading to fewer deviations and higher cell quality.”
After three years of working on the system in collaboration, Lonza decided to take a controlling stake in its partner, Octane Biotech, with the option to acquire full ownership.
Marc Funk, COO of Lonza Pharma & Biotech, told us the time was right for the stake purchase, as “we have now reached a stage in the development where we are confident that this technology has the potential to be a game-changer in cell therapy.”
Funk explained that the next steps for the partnership is to finalise validation documents and activities for current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) qualification.
The technology will be made available to customers from its facility in Texas, US, as well as across North America and Europe through a supplier agreement.
The ultimate goal, Funk said, is to reach patients with cell therapy treatments, though he noted that when this happens will “depend on our customers’ and collaborators’ timelines.”
Rapidly developing market
Lonza has been investing heavily in the cell and gene therapy space, with acquisitions and manufacturing capacity investment.
When asked whether the scale of this expansion was related to the growth of the cell and gene therapy market, Funk confirmed that the number of therapies in development necessitates the concurrent development of manufacturing capabilities.
“The market growth for autologous cell therapies has been 26% over the last few years (compound annual growth rate between 2013-2017) with over 200 companies developing around 450 therapies.
“We can also see increasing numbers of therapies approaching commercialisation, so this is a critical moment for autologous cell therapy manufacturing,” he said.