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Thermo Fisher to invest $180M in new gene therapy plant

Instruments maker Thermo Fisher plans to spend $180 million to build a 290,000-square-foot site that will double capacity to make viral vectors, the inactivated viruses used to convey gene therapies into human cells.The contract development and manufacturing organization plans to complete work on the facility in Plainville, Massachusetts, in 2022 and add more than 200 jobs.Thermo’s investment is the latest in a series of expansions designed to meet growing demand for gene therapies and vaccines, the company said in a May 11 statement.

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Like other CDMOs, Thermo sees a massive opportunity in the field of gene therapy.

Thermo paid $1.7 billion last year to buy viral vector contract manufacturer Brammer Bio. The company later opened a $90 million manufacturing facility in Lexington, Massachusetts, and it’s expanded capacity at sites in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Alachua, Florida, as well.

Thermo’s new space in Massachusetts will rival a 300,000-square-foot plant operated by Swiss drug manufacturer Lonza in Pearland, Texas, outside of Houston. Lonza called the plant the world’s largest dedicated to cell and gene therapy production when it opened in 2018.

Lonza has also been steadily making deals in an effort to support biotech and pharma customers through every step of the process in gene therapy. As of April 2019, the company had worked with more than 45 viral vector customers and expected that number to keep climbing.

Other companies are expanding, too. Fujifilm in November announced plans to spend about $120 million in the gene therapy field, including a new innovation center in Texas. Catalent last year paid $1.2 billion for Paragon Bioservices to bolster its manufacturing capacity for gene therapies.

Thermo said its new plant will take advantage of the latest technology, with digital connectivity and advanced operator training. The company said it chose to construct the site in Plainville to take advantage of nearby Thermo facilities and draw on the Boston-area talent pool