City of Hope's Duarte Campus.

City of Hope's Duarte Campus.

City of Hope National Medical Center is planning an advanced biotech manufacturing plant in Arizona as demand for cell-based therapies to fight cancer is on the rise.

Duarte-based City of Hope has linked up with Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute to build the new facility, officials with the medical center said.

The Arizona plant would support the work of three existing facilities in Duarte that are currently operating at capacity to produce gene therapy products, cells and drug compounds for use in clinical trials across the United States.

“We’re struggling for space,” said Joseph Gold, manufacturing director of the hospital’s Center for Biomedicine and Genetics, which produces viruses used to create personalized cancer treatments known as CAR-T immunotherapy – a cell-based therapy in which a patient’s own immune system is harnessed to fight specific cancers.

“We’re turning away new projects on a weekly basis, new cell therapies for new diseases,” Gold said. “If someone comes to City of Hope to make a CAR-T virus, there’s a waiting list for almost a year.”

Cell-based therapies such as CAR-T are among the fastest-growing medical treatments for the disease.

Demand on the rise

The demand for clinical cell therapies is expected to grow by 42 percent a year over the next decade, according to a 2017 Roots Analysis market study. The research and consulting group estimated that the global market for cell manufacturing will be worth more than $4 billion by 2027.

With increased demand for experimental and newly approved therapies comes the need to bolster manufacturing capacity in Los Angeles County and beyond.

The new City of Hope plant planned for the Phoenix region would aim to produce enough cells to support clinical trials conducted by a range of biotech companies and research centers in California and elsewhere. It would also accelerate cancer treatment throughout Arizona.

Executives with City of Hope and Arizona’s Translational Genomics, known as TGen, said in early November that they hope to build the 30,000- to 50,000-square-foot plant within 12 to 18 months.

“It’ll be a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that will improve the speed that cancer therapies can be produced,” said TGen founder Jeffrey Trent, who also serves as president and research director. “Right now, the bottleneck lies in manufacturing, unable to meet demand.”

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the largest nonprofit hospital in the West, is also planning to take up biotech manufacturing.

A new Cedars-Sinai Biomanufacturing Center, announced in September by the U.S. Commerce Department, would produce pluripotent stem cells that could potentially reproduce any cell or tissue the body needs to repair itself. The new center is expected to create 444 jobs and draw $47 million in private investment, according to the federal agency.

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