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Gilead to build manufacturing site in Maryland to boost cell therapy

  • Gilead will build a new manufacturing facility on a 20-acre site in Frederick County, Maryland, focused on CAR-T therapies, the California biotech said Wednesday
  • The Urbana facility will “significantly expand” Gilead’s manufacturing capacity for CAR-T therapies, including its Yescarta cancer treatment, the company’s Kite Pharma unit stated.
  • Frederick County will fast track permits and give the company property tax credits, with the agreement that the project will create a minimum of 440 new full-time jobs, said Heather Gramm, the county’s economic development deputy director.

The new facility should help the big biotech meet some of the unique challenges of manufacturing CAR-T therapies. The process is complex and time sensitive; cells are taken from patients, genetically engineered to seek out certain cancer cells and then re-infused back into patients.

Companies that produce CAR-T therapies need a network of sites and extensive shipping support.

Gilead acquired Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) in its $11.9 billion purchase of Santa Monica, California-based Kite in 2017. That transaction included Kite’s manufacturing and research facilities, and Gilead has been adding more as it looks to compete with Novartis, which sells the CAR-T therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel​).

Novartis has also been working to expand manufacturing after production problems hindered the rollout of Kymriah. Late last year, the Swiss company announced plans to buy the French contract manufacturer CellforCure.

In Urbana, Gilead chose a location within 50 miles of the three major airports in the Washington region. Other Gilead facilities in California and the Netherlands are also strategically placed close to airports.

Frederick County will phase in property taxes on the increased assessed value of the new facility over a period of 10 years, Gramm said. Based on discussions with the company, the actual number of new jobs created could rise to 800 over the next several years, she added.

The state of Maryland also approved a $2 million conditional loan, which requires the new site to have at least 352 employees and that the company creates 72 more jobs somewhere else in Maryland by December 2025, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.