Thursday, January 23, 2020

Brian O’Neill to build cell and gene manufacturing facility in King of Prussia

by Katie Park, Philadelphia Inquirer
Brian O’Neill, the Main Line developer who founded the substance abuse treatment chain Recovery Centers of America, plans to develop a $1.1 billion cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility in King of Prussia.

The company, which O’Neill has named the Center for Breakthrough Medicines, is part of the Discovery Labs, a 1.6 million-square-foot, $500 million biotechnology, health-care, and life sciences office complex he is building in an industrial section of King of Prussia. The center will claim 680,000 square feet of the Discovery Labs.

The goal of the center, its management said Wednesday, is to pursue cures for diseases including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia A, and certain cancers by working with scientists, large pharmaceutical companies, and academic and governmental institutions.

Health-care investment management firm Deerfield Management of New York City co-founded the center with O’Neill.

“Today, brilliant scientists are advancing an unprecedented number of gene and cell therapy drug candidates," Alex Karnal, Deerfield’s partner and managing director and a Discovery Labs board member, said in a statement. “The real tragedy, however, is a scarcity of manufacturing know-how, which is complex and expensive.”

The Center for Breakthrough Medicines will address what it regards as a “shortfall” in cell and gene therapy manufacturing, the company said, as well as a scarcity of products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Discovery Labs is managed by Radnor-based MLP Ventures, formerly the O’Neill Properties Group. The complex has announced its plans to remake the 1 million-square-foot Upper Merion West facility formerly occupied by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and 640,000 square feet at the nearby office park Innovation Renaissance.

In 2018, MLP Ventures bought a portion of Innovation Renaissance from Wayne-based Liberty Property Trust for $77 million. Liberty, the company that built the Comcast Towers in Philadelphia, has since arranged to be acquired by San Francisco’s Prologis Inc. for $12.6 billion.

Major construction continues at the Discovery Labs, which plans suites for universal cell processing, viral vector production, and cell banking for the Center for Breakthrough Medicines. The company said it would hire around 2,000 employees over the next 2½ years.

It is marketing itself as “the world’s largest and most advanced single solution cell and gene therapy contract development and manufacturing organization. Period."

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