On Feb. 18, 2019, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that AveXis, a Novartis gene therapy company headquartered in Bannockburn, IL, will invest an additional $60 million to expand its manufacturing center in Durham County, NC, creating 200 new jobs. The new center was first announced in May 2018.
AveXis’ initial product candidate, AVXS-101, now known as Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi), is an investigational gene replacement therapy for treating spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 1. The drug is designed to address the genetic root cause of SMA Type 1, a deadly neuromuscular disease with limited treatment options. Zolgensam previously received breakthrough therapy designation and has been granted priority review by FDA, with regulatory action anticipated in May 2019.
“Our primary focus is to bring gene therapies to patients suffering from devastating rare neurological genetic diseases, such as SMA, genetic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Rett syndrome. Continued investment in our infrastructure in North Carolina will allow us to manufacture multiple gene therapies simultaneously, helping us reach more patients, faster,” said Andy Stober, senior vice-president of technical operations and chief technical officer, AveXis, in a press release issued by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. “Gene therapy manufacturing requires a highly skilled team, and Research Triangle Park is an ideal location for our continued expansion as it enables us to recruit top talent, including through partnership with local schools and colleges.”
The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of NC (EDPNC) led the state’s support for the company’s expansion. AveXis will create a variety of positions in Durham County, including scientists, engineers, analysts, manufacturing, and operations personnel.
The expansion will be facilitated, in part, by a job development investment grant approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee. Over the course of the 12-year term of this grant, the project will grow the state’s economy by an estimated $1.3 billion.
Partnering with NC Commerce and the EDPNC on this project were the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Durham County, and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.