Harvard, MIT, FUJIFILM and More Launch Genetown Biomanufacturing Facility

OCT 27, 2022

Genetown has a brand new state-of-the-art 44,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility ready to transition new startups from the lab to the market.

Located in Watertown, Mass, the new site offers a suite of end-to-end services to support the development of new cell and gene therapies.

The new facility was launched by Landmark Bio, the brainchild of multiple entities from academia and the life sciences industry. Landmark Bio was founded by Harvard University, MIT, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, Cytiva and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

The organization is focused on innovation and accelerating drug development within the Massachusetts life sciences community.

Landmark Bio’s launch comes about a month after Pres. Joe Biden issued an Executive Order supporting improvements to biomanufacturing in the United States. Landmark Bio Chief Executive Officer Ran Zheng said she was excited by the president’s announcement that put so much focus and attention on biomanufacturing.

Ran Zheng_courtesy Landmark Bio

“It’s really very much needed,” she told BioSpace in an interview. And that is where Landmark Bio and its new Watertown facility comes into play. Zheng said it is the first company she is aware of that is supported by a cross-section of players in the overall life sciences space.

This is a unique venture that brings together the best of academia, industry and research hospitals in order to turn groundbreaking research into life-changing therapies,” she said.

Alan M. Garber, M.D., Ph.D., provost of Harvard University and chairman of Landmark Bio’s board of directors, said the work conducted at Landmark will allow “groundbreaking ideas” from the research labs at Harvard to be “transformed into life-changing therapies.”

MIT Provost Cynthia Barnhart, who serves as a member of the board of directors at Landmark, echoed Garber, saying the facility “serves as a transformational development center for our talented research community to advance technologies that manufacture and distribute breakthrough therapies.”

The new facility includes eight cleanrooms for cell therapies, as well as space for genome editing, viral vector, mRNA and lipid nanoparticle production. The site also has fill and finish and in-house Quality Control testing.

It additionally provides wraparound services such as drug development and regulatory consulting, and program management. Currently, there are about 60 people employed at the facility but that number is expected to surpass 100 people in the next few years, Zheng said.

Kevin Casey, strategic adviser to Landmark Bio, told BioSpace that over the past several years, he and colleagues discussed the challenges facing researchers trying to bring new treatment modalities out of academic and hospital laboratories. Ultimately, the conversation turned to the formation of a joint venture to support these scientific discoveries. They believed this new venture should focus on biomanufacturing and Landmark Bio was born.

“The means of making new drugs coming forward requires a lot of innovation. That was an area where there could be a new asset for the ecosystem,” he said.

Landmark Bio’s services will benefit startups and young companies by shortening the time it may take for them to get their material made at a CDMO.

The site is structured to “keep a spotlight on the innovation aspect” of these groups that will use Landmark Bio’s services, Casey said. He added that Landmark Bio will be something like a conveyor belt from the academic bench to product for GMP manufacturing.

Unlike many life sciences industries that eye financial returns, Landmark Bio was organized as a public benefit LLC. Casey said it is a mission-driven organization that is not necessarily focused on delivering a profit.

“We measure our success based on the innovation we can deliver and the modalities we can enable,” Zheng added.