Lonza looks to Cocoon to drive autologous cell therapy paradigm shift

Lonza has partnered with several academic clinical centers to assess the manufacture of cell therapies in a decentralized setting using its automated Cocoon point-of-care (PoC) platform.

Swiss contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza announced independent research collaborations with Stanford University School of Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. The collaborations will see the tech transfer of cell therapy manufacturing processes developed at the respective research institutes into the Cocoon platform.

The Cocoon system is a patient-scale, closed, and automated manufacturing system intended for the manufacture of a variety of autologous cell therapy protocols, including CAR-T, but also tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is one of several institutes collaborating with Lonza on the Cocoon tech. Image: Joe Mabel/creativecommons

“It is clear that manufacturing autologous cell therapies requires a paradigm shift,” Eytan Abraham, head of personalized medicine at Lonza, told Bioprocess Insider. “The current manual processes will not allow these therapies to scale and some therapies are more challenging to manufacture and deliver in a centralized manufacturing model.”

He added the Cocoon technology forms part of a wider program of R&D, platform development and process improvement at Lonza aimed at serving the increasing number of patient-scale, personalized therapies.

“The platform offers advantages including increased number of unit operations in one system, faster process set-up due to its plug and play cassette, reduced clean room space required and reduced staff for handling.”

The news comes a year after Lonza inked a collaboration with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center intended to confirm the benefits of using the Cocoon system to make autologous cell therapies in a PoC environment.

Centralized and decentralized manufacturing

The Cocoon system was developed by Octane Biotech. Lonza acquired an 80% stake in the company in 2018, and is now “driving the development of patient-scale manufacturing including autologous cell therapies with Cocoon,” according to Abraham.

“Lonza has been working with Octane on the Cocoon platform for about four years, three of these as an evaluation phase, and as a majority shareholder only since November 2018,” he told us. “It was critical for us to assure that the technology is mature enough and meets the needs of our varied customer base.”

While Lonza is offering the Cocoon system as a tech offering, it has also integrated the platform into its cell and gene therapy offering and installed the equipment at its Houston, Texas site.

“The plan is to use the Cocoon technology in either ‘centralized’ manufacturing in our own facilities as a CDMO service, or at our customer’s facilities as a technology. A ‘decentralized’ model of hubs and point of care is also possible. As such, we are working with different partners to enable all three options, and we believe that all three will be viable and important.”