Novartis Building $55m gene therapy plant, Creating 200 Jobs in NC

A week after buying AveXis, Novartis has announced plans to build a gene therapy manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina.

On May 15, Swiss Biopharma Novartis confirmed the completion of the US$8.7 billion (€7.4 billion) acquisition of clinical stage gene therapy firm AveXis.

A week later, Novartis has unveiled plans for a $55 million gene therapy production plant in Durham, North Carolina to support AveXis’ gene therapy pipeline targeting rare neurological genetic diseases.

AveXis’ lead candidate AVXS-101, in development for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 1 and Type 2, is based on AveXis’ proprietary AAV9 gene delivery platform for diseases of the central nervous system (CNS).

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted AVXS-101 Orphan Drug Designation for the treatment of SMA, along with Breakthrough and Fast Track Designation.

“Our primary focus is to bring gene therapies to patients suffering from devastating rare neurological diseases – such as SMA, genetic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Rett syndrome – and continued investment in establishing our manufacturing infrastructure is a critical component to accomplishing this goal,” Andrew Knudten, SVP of technical operations at AveXis said in a statement.

The investment will create around 200 jobs. Positions include engineers, manufacturing and quality control personnel, and supply chain specialists, and when filled Novartis/AveXis is expected to foot an annual payroll bill of $20 million.

North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper said: “We’re proud to be the place where cutting edge work will happen on gene therapies to fight disease and improve people’s health,” and added the decision to build the facility “further enhances the state’s expertise in this emerging field.”

A Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by North Carolina’s Economic Investment Committee helped to drive the expansion. Novartis could receive potential reimbursement of up to $2.23 million over 12 years through the JDIG.

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