Swiss drug manufacturer Lonza has opened a ‘state-of-the-art’ cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility, the Lonza Houston Center of Excellence.

Located in Pearland near Houston, the 300,000-square-foot facility has been built to accommodate the increasing demand for cell and gene therapy manufacturing technologies.

The facility will be used to develop and manufacture components for gene therapies to treat a range of conditions. Describing gene therapy as ‘the next era in medicine’, Lonza hopes having gene therapy technology under one roof will enable treatments to be delivered to patients more quickly and efficiently.

The centre will have more than 200 full-time staff including scientists, engineers, and biotechnology professionals by the time it is fully operational by the end of 2018.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, gene-based medicine is an experimental technique that uses genes to treat or prevent disease. Rather than treating medical conditions with drugs, mutated genes may be replaced with healthy copies or inactivated so they no longer function.

Gene therapy is currently available primarily in a research setting. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved only a limited number of gene therapy products for sale in the United States. The decision to build the facility comes as gene therapy is receiving a great deal of interest from the medical community for its potential to ‘cure’ many diseases.

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The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry estimates the global cell and gene therapy market will be worth an estimated $21bn by 2025.

Lonza business unit head for emerging technologies Andreas Weiler said: “Lonza Houston will serve as a centre of excellence for cell and gene therapy process development from concept through pre-clinical, clinical and commercialisation, all the way to the patient.

“This facility has the potential to produce treatment for thousands of patients suffering from rare genetic disorders or life-threatening diseases, under one roof. It will set a new standard in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and stand as one of four centres of excellence in cell and gene therapy in the only global network spanning three continents.”

In October 2011, Lonza acquired Arch Chemicals for $1.4bn and became the world’s largest manufacturer of biocides. In August 2016, the group announced its intention to acquire InterHealth Nutraceuticals. The company now has six cell and gene therapy manufacturing sites around the globe.