BOSTON—Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies says the new collaboration center it opened in Cambridge, MA, is part of an ongoing effort to grow its contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) business to $1 billion in annual sales by March 2024.

Fujifilm Diosynth, a CDMO focused on developing and manufacturing gene therapies and recombinant biopharmaceuticals, said the new Cambridge Collaboration Center is designed to help the company forge partnerships with the large concentration of academic researchers and biopharma businesses in the region anchored by Cambridge and neighboring Boston.

“We want to connect with bioindustry in the gene therapy space because we don’t have all the answers. We think one of the things that we can bring is to be the meeting place for the biotech industry in Cambridge, specifically companies with a gene therapy bias,” Fujifilm Diosynth CEO Steve Bagshaw, CEng, FIChemE, told GEN in an interview Tuesday at the 2018 Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) International Convention, held June 3–6 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

“Within a year, you'll see projects that we're going to be doing with Boston and Cambridge companies, that we would not have got had we not been on the ground. We expect to see at least two or three in the first year—collaborations that would not have happened had we not been on the ground in Cambridge,” Bagshaw added.

Helping those companies and potential academic partners will be the goal of the center’s staff, which will include a sales executive and a business development executive based there, as well as other staffers from Fujifilm businesses who will work from the center when they’re in the region.

Making Texas Feel Closer

One of the center’s objectives is to connect potential partners with the full reach of Fujifilm Diosynth’s CDMO operations—notably its flexible manufacturing facility (FBF) in College Station, TX, which officially opened in January, and last month extended its gene therapy and viral vaccine fill/finish capabilities to support late-phase candidates and commercial supply.

The 80,000-square-foot facility uses mobile clean room technology to allow for multiproduct and multiclass production of advanced therapies. The expansion gives Fujifilm Diosynth 19 mobile clean rooms in Texas. 

FBF is intended to complement the company’s process and analytical development and manufacturing capabilities at Texas A&M University’s National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, which is equipped for Phase I/II GMP production of advanced therapies and is also located in College Station.

College Station is one of three Fujifilm Diosynth sites worldwide; the other two are in Billingham, UK, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Fujifilm Diosynth is among gene therapy CDMOs scrambling to help gene therapy developers address the shortage of virus needed for their treatments to advance through clinical phases into the market.

“We have capacity on the ground in Texas to do that. But Texas feels a long way away for a Massachusetts company,” Bagshaw said. “By having ourselves on the ground in Massachusetts, we're able to show people what we've got, get them confident in our own track record, our scientific background, the depth of what we've got, and then help people then come down to Texas and see what we've got on the ground there, and actually find them ways in which we can tailor-make for them a solution.”

Fujifilm Diosynth reasons that a robust CDMO business can also position the company to deliver on its slogan of “Advancing tomorrow’s medicines.”

“We know that the 2020s is going to be a decade in which regenerative medicine is way more prevalent than it is today. From that end, we're going to be there on the ground with expertise and track record, and help people navigate that decade and bring their products to market,” Bagshaw said.

Should the collaboration center in Cambridge succeed, Bagshaw said, Fujifilm Diosynth will follow up by creating additional centers.

“We're looking around the world: Where are the places where they would benefit from having these on the ground? Clearly if you were picking them, you'd want something on the West Coast. We're looking in Europe and looking at London. We're looking in Asia,” Bagshaw said. “We're looking to see, where does the model work? We're going to try it in Cambridge first, and see what happens.”

Completing $800M in Acquisitions

Also during BIO 2018, Fujifilm completed its combined $800 million acquisition of Irvine Scientific (ISUS) and IS Japan (ISJ), announced March 29. Both companies serve biopharmas and academic institutions by offering culture media for biopharmaceutical production, in vitro fertilization, and cell therapy. Irvine Scientific distributes mainly in the U.S. and Europe, while IS Japan distributes mainly in its namesake country as well as across Asia.

The dual acquisitions are Fujifilm’s latest efforts to expand its cell culture and broader biopharma CDMO business or “BioCDMO” business. Last month, Fujifilm was ranked #4 among GEN’s Top 15 Bioprocessing Companies, based on the ¥432.5 billion ($4.1 billion) generated last year by its Fujifilm Healthcare business of Fujifilm’s Information Solutions segment, which develops businesses in medical systems, pharmaceuticals, regenerative medicine, and life sciences.

The current size of Fujifilm’s BioCDMO business was not available. Fujifilm has yet to release its annual report for the fiscal year that ended March 30.

Fujifilm established a standalone biopharma CDMO operating unit last year, separating that business from its pharmaceutical products division, and announced plans to expand capacity at its U.S. and U.K.-based BioCDMO facilities by investing ¥14 billion ($131.5 million).  

Part of that investment—¥1 billion ($9.4 million)—funded a 10,000-square-foot cell culture process development laboratories in Wilton Centre, Teesside, U.K., that was opened by Fujifilm Diosynth in September 2017.

Also that month, Fujifilm took a 6% stake in the regenerative medicine venture company NC Medical Research by investing ¥430 million ($4 million) in the developer of the mesenchymal stem cell treatment candidate NCS-01 for acute stroke.

Fujifilm also bought reagent manufacturer Wako Pure Chemical Industries from Takeda Pharmaceutical for nearly ¥154.7 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2016. A year earlier, it acquired Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), a provider of induced pluripotent stem cell-based drug discovery support services, for about $307 million. CDI’s cell preparation technologies will be combined with ISUS, ISJ, and the somatic stem cell culturing technologies of Japan Tissue Engineering (J-TEC), acquired by Fujifilm in 2014.

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