Charles River eyeing up HemaCare expansion and more CGT acquisitions

Charles River Laboratories says it is “seriously pursuing” geographical expansion of its recently acquired HemaCare business as it assesses further opportunities in the cell and gene therapy space.

In December last year, contract research organization (CRO) Charles River picked up HemaCare for $380 million, bolstering its cell therapy services portfolio.

The firm predicted the acquisition would add at least $50 million to its 2020 consolidated revenue and expects revenue growth for the business to substantially increase over the next five years.

HemaCare’s facility in Northridge, California. Image c/o Google

Speaking on the firm’s end of year 2019 conference call this week, CEO James Foster told investors he is “thrilled with this deal” and envisages simplicity for cell therapy developers in the supply chain from having HemaCare integrated with Charles River’s other offerings.

“The continuity and ability to hand off cell therapy drugs from product and service within the Charles River portfolio is really, really powerful and not something anybody else can do,” he said.

“HemaCare is going to grow at least at least 30%. It’ll be terrific for the research models segment but will also really expand the initiation of so much of this work, whether it’s an R&D process improvement or manufacturing with clients, who are in this space who can count on us. And like all clients, they’re always going to rush to market, and the ability not to have to find new providers of particular products or services in this space will be quite powerful.”

HemaCare provides leukapheresis – the separation of white cells from blood samples – services for materials used in the manufacture of cell therapies including Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), Kite’s Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) and Dendreon’s Provenge (sipuleucel-T). It also supplies human primary cells needed in research and early-stage development.

“Combined with our integrated early stage portfolio of discovery, safety assessment and manufacturing support services, the addition of HemaCare creates a unique, comprehensive solution that enables clients to work with one scientific partner from the earliest stages of cell therapy programs and iteratively throughout the research process in order to accelerate their speed to market, we believe HemaCare will lead more clients to start this cell therapy discovery programs at Charles River and remain with us.”

Expansion

And with HemaCare onboard, Charles River’s advanced therapy ambitions are only going to grow. Specifically, Foster said Charles River is looking to expand HemaCare’s geographical presence.

“The capacity they have right now in [Northridge] California is relatively new and will help them grow in that locale for a while, but we want to take advantage of other locations. So, we’re seriously pursuing that,” he said, steering clear of saying where that might be.

But beyond HemaCare, Charles River is going to invest and acquire further in the sector, Foster told stakeholders

“We’re going to continue to add to and enhance our own infrastructure while, hopefully, acquiring additional companies in the space so we can provide the core tools for them to do cell and gene therapy, both discovery and scale-up and, ultimately, manufacturing the products to go into the clinic.”

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