Adverum to Invest $83M to Join NC's Gene Therapy Cluster
California gene therapy innovator Adverum Biotechnologies announced plans today to invest $83 million to establish a manufacturing site in Durham that will employ 202 people at an average salary of $93,762 when fully operational.
It's the latest in a string of cell- and gene-therapy companies drawn to the Triangle for its trained workforce, academic prowess and attractive business, social and meteorological climate.
The publicly held company, (Nasdaq: ADVM), is a clinical-stage gene therapy company targeting unmet medical needs in serious ocular and rare diseases. Adverum's lead product candidate, ADVM-022, is a one-time injection into the eye to treat conditions such as wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema.
Adverum, based in Redwood City, Calif., has some 150 employees. Led by CEO Laurent Fischer, M.D., they are developing gene therapies for sustained expression of therapeutic proteins. It describes its core capabilities include clinical development, novel vector discovery, and in-house manufacturing expertise, specifically in scalable process development, assay development, and current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) quality control.
Adverum’s 174,000-square-foot Durham facility will include four 1,000-liter bioreactors, with space for future expansion. The company’s therapeutics are built around the harmless adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors used in gene therapeutics. AAVs are small viruses that can infect cells without causing any known harm, making them ideal vectors, or carriers, of genetic material into cells.
Positions at the new facility will include production staff, quality control specialists, facility engineers and other personnel. State officials said the facility will create an annual payroll impact of $19 million for the Research Triangle region.
“Today’s announcement culminates a robust site selection process to determine the best fit for our future GMP commercial manufacturing needs for ADVM-022,” said Fischer. “With its reputation as a strong viral vector manufacturing hub, North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park offers a highly skilled and diverse workforce crucial for advancing our novel and transformative gene therapy.”
“We are building a team with exceptional AAV-gene therapy experience and we are thrilled to join the highly skilled and diverse North Carolina biotech community,” he added. “This state-of-the-art facility will support our commercialization of ADVM-022, the potential first mass-marketed gene therapy for wet AMD and DME.”
One of the leaders on the project from Adverum is Chief Technology Officer Angela Thedinga, who has strong North Carolina ties and understands what the state has to offer Adverum. Thedinga earned a Master of Public Health degree in 2015 from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and concurrently worked for five years at Novartis Vaccines in Holly Springs, before that facility was sold to Seqirus. She also worked at AveXis before joining Adverum. AveXis established a gene therapy manufacturing site in Durham in 2018, which is now Novartis Gene Therapies. Adverum was also considering California and Massachusetts for locating the project that ultimately came to North Carolina.
“Our new in-house commercial manufacturing facility sets the foundation of our overall manufacturing strategy," said Thedinga. "Our new site will provide dedicated commercial supply, while we continue to leverage CMO (contract manufacturing organization) partnerships for flexible clinical and additional commercial supply. This multi-source strategy capitalizes on our internal AAV manufacturing expertise while providing both security and flexibility as we prepare to deliver one of the first gene therapies for large indications.”
“Adverum Biotechnologies is a natural fit for North Carolina’s growing cell- and gene-therapy ecosystem,” said Bill Bullock, senior vice president for economic development and statewide operations at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, who helped support the Adverum selection of North Carolina for this project.
“Adverum leaders and shareholders are invested in the long-term commitments required to bring great ideas to the marketplace, and recognize that North Carolina has the same resolve, with workforce preparation, business acumen and a unique environment of collaboration. NCBiotech is honored to have been able to contribute to the partnership that brings Adverum here.”
The state's Economic Investment Committee met this morning and approved a Job Development Investment Grant to support the project with up to $3 million in funding over 12 years if job milestones are met. Additionally, Adverum will receive a training grant of over $400,000 and an estimated $6 million from local and other incentives. Combined state and local incentives total up to $9 million.
"North Carolina’s global leadership in biotechnology was established years ago -- and we continue to build on our reputation, not rest on it,” North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland said. “Congratulations to Adverum Biotechnologies for the success that has positioned it at the frontier of gene therapy, and my thanks go out to the state and local partners supporting the company’s arrival in North Carolina.”
In a news release announcing the project, Governor Roy Cooper said, “Our state’s dynamic workforce continues to propel life-changing innovation and keeps North Carolina at the forefront of biomanufacturing through life sciences companies like Adverum.”
The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina led the collaborative effort to recruit Adverum, which, besides NCBiotech, included the North Carolina Community College System, Durham County, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Duke Energy.