Charles River acquires Cognate BioServices to expand cell and gene therapy programs

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Zhanna Hapanovich
© GettyImages/Zhanna Hapanovich

Related tags: cell and gene therapy, Plasmids

Massachusetts-based clinical research organization (CRO), Charles River Laboratories, is to acquire Cognate BioServices, a cell and gene therapy contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) for around US$875m in cash.

The deal, which is coming fast on the heels of the CRO’s January 2021 acquisition of antibody discovery company, Distributed Bio, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.

Charles River said the acquisition will establish it as a scientific partner for cell and gene therapy (CGT) development, testing, and manufacturing – providing clients with an integrated solution from basic research through CGMP production.

It noted the Memphis biotech’s services, primarily cell therapy and plasmid production, serve a market worth about US$1.5bn globally. That market is expected to grow annually by at least 25% over the next five years, said the CRO.

Jim Foster, Charles River’s CEO, commented. "This acquisition will be an exceptional strategic fit, adding to our comprehensive suite of early-stage research and manufacturing support solutions."

In a Q4 2020 earnings call yesterday, Foster said the COVID-19 pandemic has also enhanced the global focus on scientific innovation, which is generating biomedical breakthroughs across multiple therapeutic areas, including for COVID-19 vaccines.

“This innovation has fueled continued investment in and the proliferation of more complex research techniques involving advanced drug modalities, such as cell and gene therapies.

“The complexity of these new modalities is increasing our clients' reliance on a high science outsourcing partner like Charles River. To enhance our ability to meet our clients' needs in these emerging areas of scientific innovation and to take advantage of the significant growth opportunities that these advanced drug modalities present, we are expanding our portfolio and scientific expertise through a combination of acquisitions, strategic partnerships and internal investments.”

Fast growing cell and gene therapy segment 

In November 2019, Charles River singled out CGT as the fastest growing component of its biologics business. The following month, it revealed a US$380m (€340m) deal to buy CGT specialist, HemaCare, a company that had worked on three cell therapies approved in the US - Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) and Provenge (sipuleucel-T).

Then in August last year the CRO announced the acquisition of Memphis based Cellero, (formerly Key Biologics and Astarte Biologics), a provider of cellular products for cell therapy developers and manufacturers worldwide, for US$38m.

The Cellero deal, said Charles River, would complement the HemaCare business by boosting the supply of critical biomaterials, including a wide range of human-derived primary cell types to support the discovery, development, and manufacture of cell therapies.

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