At the Bio International Convention held last year in Philadelphia, The Discovery Labs announced it was opening 1.6 million square feet of coworking space and collaborative labs for healthcare, life sciences and tech companies out of GlaxoSmithKline’s former campus in King of Prussia.
About half a year later, nearly all its square footage has been accounted for, Audrey Greenberg, executive managing director of the Discovery Labs, told Technical.ly.
Included is a big get for the region: The Discovery Labs and Deerfield Management Company have formed The Center for Breakthrough Medicines, a contract development and manufacturing organization and specialty investment company, the Discovery Labs announced this week.
The Center for Breakthrough Medicines leased 680,000 square feet of Discovery Labs’ facility to provide pre-clinical through commercial manufacturing of cell and gene therapies, including process development, plasmid DNA, viral vectors, cell banking, cell processing and support testing capabilities.
Its goal is to “to alleviate the critical lack of capacity that is preventing patients from accessing critically needed cell and gene therapies,” Discovery Labs said.
“Today brilliant scientists are advancing an unprecedented number of gene and cell therapy drug candidates. The real tragedy, however, is a scarcity of manufacturing know-how, which is complex and expensive,” said Alex Karnal, partner and managing director of Deerfield Management and a board member of the Discovery Labs, in a statement. “It is hoped that the Center for Breakthrough Medicines will help realize the promise of cell and gene therapies in time to treat the many patients who need them.”
The Center for Breakthrough Medicines has initiated a substantial hiring effort, with plans to hire more than 2,000 team members within the next 30 months in positions like Ph.D. scientists, manufacturing experts, lab technicians and support staff.
Greenberg called the company an “end-to-end solution” for companies that are looking to manufacture their solutions and products.
“There wasn’t really space for that to happen, and we’re in a biotech epicenter,” she said. “Companies can grow within our space.”
First leases within the 1.6 million square feet across campus will likely be taken up by 10 to 20 companies in the first quarter of 2020. Many, including the Center for Breakthrough Medicines, will move into the space in Q3 or Q4 of 2020, after renovations are complete and labs are outfitted to each company’s needs.
The campus is also getting a biotech incubator, Unite IQ, which will offer space to emerging life sciences startups with resources needed to initiate business operations. Unite IQ tenants will be able to use the discovery, development, testing and manufacturing capabilities of the Center for Breakthrough Medicines and tech transfer from research lab to large-scale production.
Currently, Philadelphia is home to the only Discovery Labs campus, but the company is looking toward expanding with locations on the West Coast, in Asia and in Europe.
The region is continuously growing as a hub for life sciences, and Greenberg cited King of Prussia’s proximity to top cell and gene therapy talent, area hospitals and patient pools as important to the Discovery Labs. Also important, she noted, was access to the Philadelphia International Airport (and its supply-chain abilities with cold storage function for transporting cell therapies).
The work is extremely important to Greenberg personally, she said.
“There’s an immediacy to this work, in this industry that’s working on cures for patients who are dying every day,” she said. “To me, this work is doing well by doing good.”
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