On the biotech doorstep: Why Sartorius moved its bioanalytics to Cambridge

Sartorius Stedim Biotech says it consolidated its cell line and testing solutions in Cambridge, Massachusetts to be close to the industry it serves.

Services like analytics, QC and characterization, have traditionally been done inhouse.

“It was done by what were referred to at one time as testing houses. These were mostly very large QC labs that focused on QC release for firstly traditional pharma products, but that migrated to the biologics,” Maurice Phelan, site head of Cambridge US, Sartorius Stedim Biotech (SSB), told Bioprocess Insider at the BPI Theater at BIO.

Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA. Image: iStock/Pixonian

But like many other elements of the drug development process, end-users look to third parties to carry out these operations, and in the past few years SSB has, through M&A, expanded its bioprocess capabilities into the bioanalytics space.

In 2015, the firm acquired Germany’s Cellca, a cell line development company, and in the same year bought Scotland’s BioOutsource, an analytics and product characterization business. Both have been integrated into SSB’s Cell Line Development and Testing Solutions business, which – despite the two acquisitions’ European credentials – has centered itself in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In Cambridge, for Cambridge

“The obvious choice for us was to come and put ourselves in the middle of what’s now the largest biotech hub in the world,” said Phelan.

He said the location is worth the high cost of rent and living associated with the area – the median home cost in Cambridge is $780,200 compared to $260,100 in Raleigh, North Carolina, another pharma hub.

“What we’re finding is that the work that we’re doing for these emerging companies in Cambridge has become so popular, and we’ve gotten so busy, that we’re now in our second stage of expansion. We’re just realizing that it is critically important to be there for those customers.”

For the new biologics and therapies coming out of the Cambridge area, speed of development is of the essence, Phelan added. “Critical quality attributes of those products and the quality stuff is important to get them – and quickly.”

He continued: “The big thing about our Cambridge operation is actually the fact that we’re there, that some of our customers that are working on candidates can literally walk across Kendall Square and deliver samples.

“That just gives you an idea of how important speed is to them. It becomes increasingly important as you get closer to the clinic to be able to rapidly characterize how well you’ve done manufacturing your product.”

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