Lonza targets both early and late-stage biotech in $415m Ibex expansion

CDMO Lonza has invested CHF 400 million in a site in Switzerland to expand its Ibex Solutions business, adding end-to-end services for biotech customers.

Contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza has launched today Ibex Design and Ibex Develop, offering smaller biopharma companies complete product lifecycle management.

The CHF 400 million ($415 million) expansion follows the launch of the Ibex Solutions service in July 2017, which saw the firm look to provide flexible production capacity for biotherapeutics through a biopark consisting of five buildings at the firm’s site and headquarters in Visp, Switzerland.

The Ibex Solutions offerings at Lonza’s Visp, Switzerland site. Image: c/o Lonza

“The first building announced last year is part of the Ibex Dedicate offering – essentially, companies have their own facilities but can plug into our network,” said Shiva Khalafpour, VP head of commercial, clinical development and manufacturing, Lonza Pharma & Biotech. “Naturally this is more attractive to larger companies, in later stages of the lifecycle.”

Khalafpour pointed to French biopharma Sanofi as an example, which in 2017 co-invested CHF 290 million with Lonza into a dedicated large-scale facility run as a joint venture at the site in Visp.

“The new offerings announced today – Ibex Design and Ibex Develop – will be in a second building within the biopark and are targeted to smaller companies (biotech) at earlier phases. These are not dedicated facilities for individual customers but will be multi-customer suites,” Khalafpour told BioProcess Insider.

“The construction of the shells of the first two buildings is nearing completion with fit out to follow. Both are expected to be operational in 2020.”

The remaining buildings will be built in stages to keep ahead of customer demand, she added, with the firm always having one of two wings in a building ready for fit out, to shorten timelines.

Design & Develop

With biotech in mind, Ibex Design will focus on customers’ preclinical and IND needs to Phase I, while Ibex Develop will focus on process validation to BLA and commercial supply. The offerings aim to speed up the drug development process by eliminating the need for tech transfers, allowing process optimizations and creating operational efficiencies.

Manufacturing for both focuses on MAB production using single-use bioreactors up to 2,000 L in multi-customer suites, Khalafpour explained, and customers will have several scale-up options depending on needs at different phases of the lifecycle.

“One option would be to stay in 2,000 L single use but multiplex. Another option could be to set up a dedicated facility within Ibex Dedicate (at the same site) where the options are basically anything up to 20,000 L. A third option would be to scale out into the wider Lonza network to move production closer to specific territories for example. Again, the options here go up to 20,000 L.”

‘Game-changer for smaller companies’

According to the firm, customer interest in in Ibex Solutions in general, and in particular in Ibex Design and Ibex, is high.

“We already have our first customers under contract for the two new offerings,” Khalafpour said, though for confidentiality reasons names have not been disclosed.

“These two new Ibex Solutions are a game-changer for smaller companies and we are seeing considerable interest in the offer already. We are continuous assessing the market need and looking into options of how best to serve customers but can’t comment further on future expansion at this stage.”

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