The 12 trends of Christmas: A look back at 2019

CAR-T partnerships, Biopharma megamergers, biotech funding, and an eye on China. Bioprocess Insider presents the biggest stories of the year… through song!

The 12 Days of Christmas. Image: By Xavier Romero-Frias – Own work, CC

T’was the days before Christmas, And all through the dept.

Not a story was breaking and journalists wept.

So why not look back at the news of the year,

The editor suggested over a beer…

In the past twelve months Bioprocess Insider brought to you (To the tune of traditional Christmas song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’):

A merger based on CAR-T

2019 started with a bang when Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) said it would buy Celgene for $74 billion (€65 billion).

The deal – which completed last month – stemmed from the immune-oncology partnership established in 2014.

Two cancer drugs…

February saw GSK buy Tesaro and sign a co-development with Merck KGaA to double the size of its clinical oncology pipeline.

Three French spends…

Servier asked Pall to kit out its facility in Gidy, France with single-use tech.

In October Genzyme – owned by Sanofi – opened a $320m US biologics site.

In November Saint-Gobain finished a bioprocess tubing site in Largo, Florida.

More news from ‘birds’…

Avid Biosciences – previously known as Peregrine Pharmaceuticals – said it planned to add mAb capacity in response to growing demand.

Meanwhile, Gilead said it would run its 2017 acquisition Kite Pharma as a separate business.

Wide cold chains!

In May Cryoport acquired Cryogene to add capacity for allogeneic cell therapies.

Meanwhile Biolife followed its purchase of cold chain services firm Savsu in July by buying Custom Biogenic Systems in November.

Plant probs delaying

In June Bluebird Bio announced it would delay the launch of Zynteglo, its $1.8 million beta thalassemia gene therapy in Europe citing manufacturing problems.

Several firms a-trimming

Amgen shared details of how it reduced its manufacturing facility footprint. The US biotech has been working to right-size capacity for five years.

Shortly before, Sanofi announced it would reduce its headcount in France.

Great mAb-based linkings

Wuxi, CMC and Lonza announced monoclonal antibody (mAb) deals in 2019.

Avid meanwhile said it would balance mAb capacity with industry needs.

Also this year, Sancell said it would make its antibody platform available to partners for product development.

New firms financing

Biotech week in saw several biotech start-ups attract funding.

Firms including Haima Theraputics, Your Choice Therapeutics, Myleoid Therapeutics and Helpsy Health all pitched for backers at the event.

Click here for coverage.

Yuan, boards are seeking

Several international drug and services firms showed increased interest in the Chinese market.

Amgen said its acquisition of a 20% holding in BeiGene would help it commercialize its biologics and advance 20 oncology candidates in China.

Boehringer Ingelheim also said it would increase production capacity in the country.

Likewise Lonza said it planned to grow in the Chinese market over the next few years, citing recent law changes.

Also, Berkley Lights said it would start offering its workflow tech to drug firms and CDMOs in China.

Cell/gene pipelines bulging

Interest in cell (and gene) therapies continued this year with, according to PhRMA, around 300 products in clinical development.

In September the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) predicted 20 cell and gene-based therapies would be filed or receive approval decisions over the next 18 months.

More CAR-Ts coming

There was also some heavy pharma investment in CAR-T based products.

In December Novartis opened a cell therapy production and development centre, citing a need for in-house capacity.

A few days prior Pfizer said it would continue to invest in in-house capacity for cell and gene therapy. Similarly, in March Cellectis said it would build out its CAR-T manufacturing network.

Meanwhile Kite shared its plans for “Yescarta 2.0,” explaining it plans to scale out production.