By Riley Griffin, August 21, 2019, 7:00 AM PDT
Pfizer Inc. said it plans to spend $500 million to expand a gene-therapy manufacturing facility in Sanford, North Carolina, helping the drug giant scale up production of treatments that fix faulty strands of DNA.
New York-based Pfizer is trying to increase its presence in the growing field of genetic therapies, which can offer transformative treatments to patients suffering from once-incurable diseases, though often at a very high price. Through various acquisitions and partnerships, Pfizer has begun three clinical gene-therapy programs, including one that targets a deadly childhood disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It also has 10 preclinical programs.
“We feel very confident that we’re at the cutting edge of the industry in operating at this scale,” said Bob Smith, Pfizer’s senior vice president of global gene therapy. “In addition to the clinical programs we have now, our ambition is to have one or two new clinical programs a year sourced from our internal rare-disease units, as well as via partnerships with academic institutions and small-to-mid-sized biotechs.”
Pfizer’s investment is a part of a broader plan to allocate $5 billion in U.S.-based capital projects over the next four years. It already poured $100 million into the Sanford facility in 2017.
Smith said the latest infusion of funds will accelerate the development process for Pfizer’s one-time gene therapies, which require months of costly cultivation and testing.
“We’re making improvements in yield, overall productivity and the potency of one gene-therapy batch to another,” Smith said.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper was scheduled to join Pfizer’s president of biopharmaceuticals, Angela Hwang, and President of Global Supply Mike McDermott on Wednesday to announce the investment. Pfizer currently has more than 3,600 employees in North Carolina and will be adding 300 additional jobs.
Pfizer first acquired the Sanford manufacturing site in 2009 through its purchase of Wyeth. The site also manufactures vaccines.