Pfizer buckles down on gene therapy with half-billion-dollar investment

By expanding its manufacturing footprint in Sanford, NC, Pfizer expects to supply of both clinical- and commercial-scale quantities of the therapies

Pfizer has dedicated an additional half-billion dollars to the construction of its state-of-the-art gene therapy manufacturing facility in Sanford, North Carolina.

This investment follows the original $100m the pharma giant committed in 2017. The facility is anticipated to support Pfizer’s continuing investment in gene therapy research and development, similar to Pfizer’s Chapel Hill and Kit Creek, North Carolina research and development sites. In a landscape that is full of up and coming gene therapies, Pfizer is investing so as not to get left behind.

In addition to its gene therapy operations, colleagues at Pfizer’s Sanford facility also manufacture components for the company’s vaccine portfolio, including Prevnar 13 and several vaccines currently in Pfizer’s research pipeline.

This facility would expand the company’s presence in NC, where there are currently more than 3,600 Pfizer colleagues, including 650 in Sanford. The expanded facility is projected to add approximately 300 new jobs.

The new facility would help advance manufacturing of highly specialised, potentially one-time gene therapies that use custom-made rAAV vectors

By expanding its manufacturing footprint in Sanford, Pfizer expects to strengthen its ability to produce and supply both clinical- and commercial-scale quantities of critical, potentially life-changing gene therapy medicines to patients living with rare diseases around the world. Specifically, the new facility would help advance Pfizer’s work in manufacturing highly specialised, potentially one-time gene therapies that use custom-made recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors.

“At Pfizer, our purpose is breakthroughs that change patients’ lives,” said Angela Hwang, Group President, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group. “We’re excited to build this new state-of-the-art facility in Sanford because it will have the potential to help us develop novel methods to deliver transformative treatments to patients.”

“This investment will further strengthen Pfizer’s leadership in gene therapy manufacturing technology,” said Mike McDermott, President of Pfizer Global Supply. “The expansion of the Sanford site is expected to create hundreds of highly skilled jobs, which would increase Sanford’s high-tech manufacturing environment and is part of our overall plan to invest approximately $5 billion in US-based capital projects over the next several years.”

“North Carolina is a leader in life sciences in part because of our long-standing partnership with Pfizer. Today we mark another boost to our state and we are proud of the people conducting life-saving research in Sanford,” North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, said.

The long game

Pfizer is expanding its end-to-end capabilities in gene therapy in North Carolina by investing in facilities focused on all stages of research, development, and manufacturing.

In the Kit Creek facility, scientists work at a small scale – from 2L flasks up to 250L bioreactors – to develop the process that may eventually be used in larger-scale manufacturing. That process is then optimised at the Chapel Hill facility, where Pfizer colleagues continue to work at a 250L scale while implementing quality control measures included in GMP, or Good Manufacturing Practice, standards.

Pfizer’s focus on these processes, combined with its existing and new additional investment in Sanford to manufacture gene therapies, is designed to result in a high-quality, efficient supply of gene therapies at clinical- and commercial-scale.

Today, the company celebrated the successful completion of the first phase of the project.

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