Charles River: COVID forces closure of donor clinic disrupting HemaCare biz

Charles River says its cell therapy services business HemaCare is susceptible to the impact of COVID-19 and has already had to temporarily close its donor collections clinic.

Charles River Laboratories acquired HemaCare for $380 million in December last year, bolstering its cell therapy services business.

HemaCare provides human primary cells as well as services used in the discovery, development and commercial production of cell therapies, and provides leukapheresis services for materials used in the manufacture of Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), Kite’s Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) and Dendreon’s Provenge (sipuleucel-T).

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The HemaCare business helped buoy Charles River’s first quarter, but could be susceptible to ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19, the company said during its financial call last week.

“HemaCare, which we acquired in January, had a strong first quarter as part of Charles River,” said CEO Jim Foster. “It performed in line with our acquisition plan, with pro forma revenue growth exceeding 30% in the first quarter.”

However, the business forms part of Charles River’s Research Models and Services (RMS) unit, which he said is expected to feel the brunt of COVID-19 going forward and has already felt some operational impact.

“As a result of COVID-19, we temporarily closed our clinic for donor collections at HemaCare in mid-March in order to ensure donor safety and pause certain integration activities. But the business has remained operational and continues to ship its products to clients. We believe COVID-19 will result in short-term disruption for this business, but over the longer term, beyond 2020, HemaCare’s growth profile in excess of 30% annually remains intact.”

The firm continues to have product to ship and says it has product it can source from others. Meanwhile, Foster said there are plans to reopen the clinic though was unable to give an exact date.

“We’ll get that business cranked up again. Inventory won’t be a problem. Obviously, it’s been disrupted from a revenue and profit-generating point of view for some a short period of time, but given the strength and interest in the work that’s being done in the cell therapy space, we anticipate it will continue to be a very strong business in the back half of the year and going forward.”