Astellas ups MA cell therapy presence with $13m incubator investments

The support of two biotech incubators operated by LabCentral is the latest investment by Astellas Pharma in the Massachusetts cell and gene therapy landscape.

Of the $13 million (€11.9 million) investment, $12.5 million will be pumped into a facility being developed by LabCentral in Cambridge, Massachusetts, set to house a lab space for start-up companies to conduct process development studies and a non-GMP pilot plant for cell and gene therapies. The rest of the investment will see Astellas become a Gold Sponsor of LabCentral’s existing incubator located nearby for the next three years.

Astellas will be the sole pharma/biotech firm invested in the incubators, allowing the company to “select, support and access innovation from leading start-ups” in the cell and gene space, while supporting the sector in Massachusetts.

Image: iStock/Yuri Tkach

Through the acquisitions of small biotechs such as Ocata Therapeutics, Mitobridge, and Potenza Therapeutics, Astellas has amassed a Massachusetts-based presence over the past decade, investing over $800 million in the region.

The firm is also relocating and the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AIRM) to a refitted facility in Westborough, Massachusetts, set to become its cell therapy development headquarters.

Speaking at the recent Biotech Week Boston event, VP of Commercial Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine for Astellas John Heffernan said the 250,000 square-foot site – announced in November 2018 and expected to open next year – will drive Astellas’ cell therapy development programs.

The former office facility will house R&D activities on the west side and tech operations on the east and will increase AIRM’s workforce in Massachusetts from 30 employees in 2016 to 150.