UK biotech aims to cut costs with digital and robotics investment

Gene and cell therapy firm Oxford Biomedica is to invest £4 million to build digital and robotics capabilities that will help manufacture the next generation of cutting edge therapies.

The group will invest the money, supported by a £2 million grant from Innovate UK to upgrade its technology to improve analysis facilities, supply times and cost of goods.

The goal is to increase capacity, reduce manufacturing costs, and reduce waste.

Oxford Biomedica supplies the viruses used by Novartis in it CAR-T cell therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) after signing a deal worth up to $100 million.

The biotech said that the project is aligned with the UK government’s Life Sciences Sector Deal, to ensure that the next wave of breakthrough treatments, innovative medical research and technologies, and highly skilled jobs are created in the country.

In September, Oxford Biomedica said it would expand its manufacturing capacity at its headquarters in Oxford.

The company expects to create up to 100 new highly skilled positions at the group over the next two years.

John Dawson, CEO of Oxford BioMedica, said: “With demand for advanced therapy medicinal products expected to grow at unprecedented levels, underlined by the interest received from our current and future potential partners at OXB, it is imperative that we continue to invest in our technology, capacity and innovation.

“This new initiative will provide us with digital and robotic enhancements to maintain our global leading position in the development and manufacture of lentiviral vector products. This is important for our own R&D pipeline as well as for our blue-chip partners as we continue to support the delivery of life-altering gene therapies to patients around the world.”

Earlier this week, Novartis head of oncology Liz Barrett told the Economist War on Cancer conference in London that the company is focusing on ways to cut costs of producing CAR-Ts, although did not mention Oxford BioMedica specifically.

However the process of manufacturing CAR-Ts is costly and time consuming and demand for the drugs looks likely to rise as Kymriah is launched across Europe.

 

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