Astellas invests $256m in Japanese and US antibody and cell therapy sites

Astellas says it is responding to the supply needs of future pipeline by constructing two multi-modality Japanese sites and relocating a regenerative medicine plant in Massachusetts.

Both R&D and manufacturing are being looked at through the expansion of sites in Toyama and Tsukuba, Japan, and Massachusetts, US to progress the development and commercialization of Astellas’ portfolio.

“Astellas is responding to the progress being made in the development and launch of new drugs from its existing portfolio and pipeline,” a spokesperson from the Japanese drugmaker told BioProcess Insider.

Astellas is building two plants in Japan and relocating and renovating a facility in Massachusetts. Image: iStock/btgbtg

“Ensuring a stable global supply in the face of international competitiveness and other external factors, Astellas continues to evaluate the ideal approach to its global technology delivery and production systems.”


In Japan, the firm is constructing what it calls the Center for Active Ingredient for Biopharmaceuticals within the premises of Toyama Technology Center of Astellas Pharma Tech, about 250km northwest of Tokyo, at a cost of around ¥10 billion ($88 million).

The 8,000m2 plant, set to be complete in September 2019, will make antibodies for use in clinical and commercial products in Japan, the US and Europe, and will also make products that include other modalities such as cell therapy.

In Tsukuba, 50km northeast of Tokyo, a ¥5 billion ($44 million) investment will see the the Center for Multimodality CTM (clinical trial material) being built, responsible for the manufacture of Phase I and II cell and gene therapies. The 1,800 m² plant is expected to be completed by March 2019.

And in the US, the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AIRM) is being relocated and upgraded under a ¥14 billion ($124 million) plan aimed at accelerating R&D in the field of regenerative medicine and cell therapy.

“These new investments are in response to new modalities,” we were told, though “without confirmation of dosage or administration requirements, new capacity can’t be determined at this time.”


The news comes weeks after Astellas paid £85 million (US$110 million) to acquire Cambridge, UK-based preclinical biotech Quethera, accelerating the Japanese firm’s entry into the ophthalmic gene therapy space.

“The preclinical program from Quethera will be incorporated into research programs being conducted within the Drug and Discovery Research group,” Astellas said. “The recently announced investments are based on our overall research strategy rather than separate transactions.”