Officials from biopharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb on Tuesday shared an inside look at some of the high-tech cancer-fighting work the company’s doing around the world, including at its sizable facilities in Bothell and Seattle.
The Bothell facility, which has about 600 employees, is one of five cell therapy manufacturing facilities Bristol Myers Squibb uses that tailor cancer-fighting therapies specific to a patient’s cells.
The Bothell facility produces Breyanzi, a new chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy to treat a type of lymphoma in adults. Bristol Myers Squibb last month announced the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Breyanzi.
CAR T cell therapy is a personalized approach for patients with specific types of blood cancers, said Krishnan Viswanadhan, the New Jersey-based senior vice president of the global cell therapy franchise, in a virtual tour of the cell therapy manufacturing process.
Two company officials from Seattle also participated in the event.
The one-time therapy uses a collection of a patient’s own T cells, enhances them in facilities like that in Bothell, and reinfuses them in the patient following a strict chain of cell-handling and patient safeguards along the way. That includes using wearable technology to monitor patients for fevers and other symptoms for a period after infusion.
“We are essentially reprogramming those cells in the manufacturing facility to attack, detect, and kill those cancer cells,” Viswanadhan said in the virtual tour.
Breyanzi is Bristol Myers Squibb’s first approved CAR T cell therapy for cancer. It is an example of the type of work its officials detailed Tuesday, and it also shows promise for other types of cancer and disease.
“I’m really excited about what cell therapy has to offer,” Viswanadhan said. “These therapies have significant potential and have great impact for patients.”
He was joined during the tour by Seattle-based officials Ann Lee, senior vice president-cell therapy development and operations; and Snehal Patel, vice president-global head of cell therapy manufacturing.
“It’s not just the CAR T cells that we’re working on,” Lee said. “We’re also working on other modalities. I think that the promise of cell therapy in general is going to offer more and more opportunities and promise to cancer, to hematology, to solid tumors, and then even broader than oncology.”
In addition to its Bothell facility for developing, manufacturing and commercializing cell therapies, New York City-based Bristol Myers Squibb has about 1,000 employees at its Seattle offices, a research and development site in the South Lake Union neighborhood. The site is at the center of the company’s discovery, pipeline development, and translational research efforts focused on cell therapy and immuno-oncology. There, scientists examine immune effector cell-based therapies such as CAR T cells, T-cell engagers, monoclonal antibodies, and small molecules in both blood cancers and solid tumors. Seattle researchers also conduct extensive exploratory translational studies to support clinical studies and inform asset development strategies, according to the company.
The company last year spent $11.1 billion on research and development, which included the discovery and development of new medicines.
In addition to Bothell, other cell therapy manufacturing facilities are located in Summit and Warren, New Jersey, and one is under construction in Devens, Mass. The company also has external contract manufacturing organizations in Japan and in Europe to deliver its cell therapy product.
“We have produced over 1,500 CAR T patient cells from clinical global trials across the world — it’s amazing,” Patel said.
The 244,000-square-foot facility in Devens will be done later this year, after which it will be fitted with technology, with engineering processes beginning toward the end of this year or early 2022, Patel said.
The company is growing and hiring at all its manufacturing sites, he said.
“It’s critical that we continue to focus on a robust manufacturing supply across the global network to ensure that we focus on turnaround times to get the product to the patients quicker; we reduce our cost by leveraging innovation and technology to help with faster turnaround times, as well as the reduction in cost; (and) we’re also looking at being able to grow our capacity across the world so we can provide more product to our patients,” Patel said.