No. This is not an additional production line dedicated to accelerating the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. By announcing on Friday the construction of a new factory in Visp (VS), Lonza recalls that its development strategy is by far not limited to the production of the active principle of Moderna’s messenger RNA vaccines.
Worth 200 million francs, “the project is supported by a capital contribution and a long-term collaboration adapted with a major biopharmaceutical partner”, according to the terms of the Basel group’s press release.
Occupying some 2,000 square meters on six levels in its Upper Valais Technology Park (IBEX), the new infrastructure will be dedicated to “small molecules”. They are part of the line favored by the Basel pharmaceutical subcontractor: association with a partner. A path which, according to Gordon Bates, in charge of activities related to small molecules at Lonza, makes it possible to “support customers through flexible business models”.
For example, when launching its pharma hotel complex four years ago, the Moderna vaccine producer revealed one of its first collaboration following this model. This involves the operation with the French company Sanofi of a large-scale mammalian cell culture facility dedicated to the production of monoclonal antibodies.
The first construction project for the new plant provides for a production line dedicated to bioconjugates, molecules that combine antibodies and drugs (ADC). The first operations should begin in the third quarter of 2023. Once completed, the new structure will employ approximately 200 people.
Prepare for the battle of the bioconjugates
With this first application, Lonza confirms its positioning in this type of treatment, considered along with gene and cell therapies as one of the major pharmaceutical battles of the decade. The group had already announced in December the construction of two production lines dedicated to this technology.
Billions are being invested in pharma to develop solutions which, by combining antibodies and anticancer drugs, can precisely target tumor cells and spare others. Last December, the German multinational Boeringher Ingelheim, for example, bought the Basel start-up NBE Therapeutics active in this field for $ 1.18 billion.