Cell therapy contract manufacturer Cellares has raised $255 million from investors to build a high-tech plant in New Jersey, an important US hub for pharmaceutical-industry production and research.
(Bloomberg) — Cell therapy contract manufacturer Cellares has raised $255 million from investors to build a high-tech plant in New Jersey, an important US hub for pharmaceutical-industry production and research.
The series C round was led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, the venture arm of closely held Koch Industries Inc., Cellares said Wednesday in a statement. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. also participated along with DFJ Growth, Willett Advisors and others. The fund pushed Cellares’s take from investors to $355 million, according to the company.
“While everyone else seems to be raising either flat rounds or down rounds, we raised at a massive step up in valuation so we are very happy with the results,” Chief Executive Officer Fabian Gerlinghaus said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television, while declining to disclose a figure.
Cellares develops and operates technologies that it says can produce cell therapies at an industrial scale. The South San Francisco, California-based company is essentially a contract manufacturer for cell-therapy firms’ clinical trials, a key step in gaining regulatory approvals. On paper, using live cells for treatment in place of drugs has a wide range of potential uses, from Parkinson’s disease to pain management. But in practice, few have proved ready to go from research stage to clinical application.
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The funds will go to Cellares’ factory in Bridgewater, New Jersey, its first commercial-scale facility. Spanning 118,000 square feet (11,000 square meters) the plant can be powered by robotics and software and eventually be capable of producing 40,000 cell therapy batches a year, Cellares said.
“We’re actually bringing down labor and facility size by 90%,” Gerlinghaus said. “What that means is that with the facility of the same size and workforce, we can produce 10 times as many cell therapies per year compared to conventional manufacturing products.”
Cellares also operates a facility in South San Francisco that is used largely for “preclinical process development.” Gerlinghaus also said a European facility will open in 2024, though no site has been selected.
New Jersey is a logical location for Cellares’s first commercial scale plant. The state, along with Princeton and Rutgers universities, has launched a technology and health-care hub in New Brunswick. Merck & Co. is among the S&P 500 health-care companies based in the north-central part of New Jersey.
Bristol is also pursuing several initiatives in the field of cell therapy, including treatments for different types of lymphoma and a cell therapy program for multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells.
Willett, one of the participants in the funding round, invests Michael Bloomberg’s personal and philanthropic assets. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
–With assistance from Paayal Zaveri.
(Updates with comments from Bloomberg Television interview starting in the third paragraph.)
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