The Seattle area is home to a new nimble drug manufacturing facility built by Just – Evotec Biologics that was unveiled Wednesday in an opening ceremony at the 130,000 square-foot facility in Redmond, Wash.
According to the company, the plant will produce antibodies to treat COVID-19. It can also make protein-based drugs at a lower cost and more efficiently than traditional plants.
The facility “brings new, highly innovative, commercial scale manufacturing capabilities to our industry, with the flexibility to produce small and large quantities of drug substance for biotech companies locally and around the globe,” said Leslie Alexandre, CEO of industry trade group Life Science Washington, in a press release.
Just – Evotec Biologics has its origins in Just Biotherapeutics, a Seattle startup founded in 2014 with the aim of reducing the cost of producing protein therapeutics and making them more accessible worldwide. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-backed company was acquired in 2019 by Hamburg, Germany-based Evotec SE, and is now an Evotec subsidiary. This new plant represents the culmination of an integrated drug manufacturing and development platform that was developed by the company.
Evotec has the ability to design, create, and manufacture anti-bodies and other agents. It starts with a drug target (a key molecule that is associated with a particular disease) and works its way through. The machine learning process identifies potential therapeutic antibodies. Our proprietary software optimizes the design of antibody products to produce high quantities.
The new plant uses a process called continuous manufacturing, an emerging technology that is more efficient than the conventional large-scale batch processing commonly used to make such biologics.
James Thomas, global head of biotherapeutics at Just – Evotec and executive vice president, said that the operations have been reduced to a tenth the size.
He said, “We can produce the same product as they can, but we are able to do it in smaller and more flexible facilities.”
J.POD 1 is a facility that can produce material per kilogram or ton in modular clean rooms known as pods. These pods contain bioreactors, and other equipment designed for continuous production.
The company has its own drug development pipeline and also has multiple partnerships, including with Seattle-based OncoResponse to help develop and manufacture a therapeutic anti-cancer antibody for clinical trials. Just-Evotec also recently announced a $15 million multi-year extension of its collaboration with drug giant Merck.
The company sealed its $28.6 million agreement to manufacture antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19 with the Department of Defense in January. These antibodies will be used in the development of a prophylactic or treatment for COVD-19. The company is also developing similar antibodies with other partners, including the Gates Foundation, and has the capability of manufacturing vaccines as well, said Thomas, the former CEO and founding partner of Just.
This facility was constructed in 19 months, much more quickly than a traditional plant that takes four years or more to build.
Thomas said that the actual manufacturing area in the new facility currently occupies only 10% and can be expanded. Rest of the area is used for office, meeting and testing rooms.
J.POD’s new facility is part of a rapidly growing Washington state vaccine and drug manufacturing industry. AGC Biologics, based in Bothell, Wash., and Jubilant HollisterStier based in Spokane, make products for Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Just – Evotec employs over 250 people at the moment and will grow to 300 employees by year’s end. It will keep its existing clinical manufacturing plant in Seattle. It is also planning to build a similar facility in France, J.POD 2. Thomas said that it is a portable technology, so they can quickly build the facilities.
J.POD 1 represents the fulfillment of a long-standing vision of improving manufacturing of protein therapeutics. Thomas said that Thomas’ previous experience includes managing manufacturing process development at Seattle’s biotech company Immunex. Amgen acquired Immunex. Thomas stated, “We care about technology most of all.” We are trying to be the leader in this industry.”
Publited at Thu, 19 August 2021 00.06:06 +0000