Dive Insight:

Building a manufacturing plant is a notable sign of Biogen’s commitment to developing and commercializing gene therapies. The company has made several acquisitions and research deals in the field, seeking to diversify its pipeline.

Most recently, Biogen announced plans to work with Germany’s ViGeneronon gene therapies for inherited eye diseases. Last year, the company signed a deal with Sangamo Therapeutics’ to develop gene editing medicines for neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2019, Biogen bought Nightstar Therapeutics for about $800 million to acquire a group of experimental gene therapies for inherited retinal diseases. One of the treatments is in Phase 3 testing for choroideremia and another is in a Phase 2 trial for X-linked retinitis pigmentosa. At the time of the acquisition, Biogen said both could be on the market early this decade.

But Nightstar didn’t have its own in-house manufacturing capabilities, a crucial asset for gene therapy developers. The new plant in North Carolina will give Biogen more control and oversight over gene therapy development and commercialization of any that might succeed.

The company joins a number of gene therapy developers — including Audentes Therapeutics, Pfizer, Bluebird bio and AveXis — who have chosen North Carolina to build manufacturing plants.

Even as companies build out internal manufacturing capabilities, contract manufacturers are also rushing to meet demand. Just last year, Catalent said it would spend $130 million to build five more gene therapy manufacturing suites at its plant in Harmans, Maryland, and Thermo Fisher announced a $180 million investment in a site for the viral vectors used to convey gene therapies into human cells.