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Pharma partner Sartorius eyes gene therapy market with $2.6B deal

Sartorius, a Germany-based manufacturer and supplier to the biopharmaceutical industry, is acquiring France’s Polyplus in a $2.6 billion acquisition meant to expand the company’s role as partner to gene and cell therapy developers.

Under a deal announced Friday, Sartorius will buy the privately held Polyplus from owners that include the private equity firms Archimed and WP GG Holdings IV, an affiliate of Warburg Pincus. Pending approval by regulators and consultation with employee groups, the acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter.

Polyplus, which employs about 270 staff, develops and produces reagents used to introduce DNA and RNA into cells, as well as plasmid DNA. Both are used to produce the viral vector backbones of cell and gene therapies, which have become a hot commodity as more of the complex medicines are put into clinical testing.

“As a leading supplier of critical components to produce cell and gene therapies, Sartorius and Polyplus together will be excellently positioned to play a significant role in this dynamic field,” said René Fáber, head of Sartorius’ bioprocess solutions division.

By bulking up in cell and gene therapy through an acquisition, Sartorius is following a similar playbook to other pharma manufacturers and suppliers. Several years ago, for example, both Thermo Fisher and Catalent made similar-sized deals to buy companies that produced gene therapy tools and components. Others, like Lonza, have invested heavily in building out their own capabilities.

The manufacturing expansion has come as the number of cell and gene therapies in clinical testing has skyrocketed. A recent count by the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine found 2,000 active clinical studies of cell, gene or tissue medicines globally, backed by both industry and academic sponsors.

Sartorius will fund the deal in part through a bridge loan with J.P. Morgan.