Taysha Gene Therapies Adds $75M, 201 Employee Manufacturing Site in Durham

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Dallas-based Taysha Gene Therapies announced plans today to invest $75 million in a 150,000-square-foot gene therapy manufacturing facility in Durham County that will employ more than 200 people between now and the end of 2023. 

Taysha is joining the fast-growing community of cutting-edge gene- and cell-therapy companies setting up shop in the Research Triangle, where decades of investment and workforce training have created a magnet for the discovery and manufacture of science’s game-changers in fighting some of humankind’s most fearsome maladies. 

The company is developing gene therapies that use benign adeno-associated viruses (AAV) as “vectors,” or carriers, to transport genetic corrections to otherwise defective areas of the body. Taysha is initially targeting genetic diseases of the central nervous system, such as CLN1 disease, also called infantile Batten disease, which causes developmental delays in children, and Rett syndrome, a rare genetic mutation affecting brain development in young girls.

CEO RA Session II
CEO RA Session II.

Taysha has a partnership with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center near its Dallas headquarters that accommodates some initial production of its gene therapies. And the company announced a partnership last month to add manufacturing capacity at therapeutics developer Catalent’s Maryland-based gene therapy facilities. But the RTP investment is aimed at large-scale manufacturing of Taysha’s product line as it evolves.

“North Carolina has a thriving life sciences ecosystem with significant expertise in gene therapy manufacturing, and we are delighted to establish our manufacturing center in Durham,” said RA Session II, president, founder and CEO of Taysha. “With our management team with technical and manufacturing know-how leading the charge, this leading facility will serve as a center of excellence for gene therapy development, from preclinical studies through commercialization, and will further Taysha’s leadership position in gene therapy as well as support our next phase of growth.”

Taysha says it expects to file as many as four Investigational New Drug applications for its product candidates next year.

There are reasons the Research Triangle has become an epicenter for AAV technology, used by most gene therapy companies today. It was developed by Jude Samulski, Ph.D., of Chapel Hill, who holds the first U.S. patent for inserting non-AAV genes into AAV. Samulski is the lead inventor on more than 300 patents in the field of AAV vectors and gene therapy.

NCBiotech grant to UNC proved 'gene-ious'

Samulski was recruited to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1993 with nearly $250,000 in grant funding from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. He led UNC’s Gene Therapy Center for several years and in 2001 co-founded Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio) in RTP, which Bayer recently bought for $4 billion.

AskBio itself spun out four gene therapy startups in recent years: NanoCor Therapeutics, Chatham Therapeutics, Bamboo Therapeutics and Actus Therapeutics. Chatham was acquired by Takeda, and Bamboo was acquired by Pfizer.

That base of gene therapy science, coupled with North Carolina’s storied life sciences workforce development system and positive business climate, have drawn billions of dollars of investment from gene and cell therapy companies to the Triangle in recent years. 

Taysha has had numerous connections with North Carolina’s gene therapy community. One of the company’s founders, early chief scientific officer Steven Gray, worked in Samulski’s lab at UNC.  Also, several other members of the management team came from AveXis. Swiss drugmaker Novartis bought AveXis for $8.7 billion in 2018 and renamed it Novartis Gene Therapies.

“Taysha is all about helping patients, and this investment underlines North Carolina’s commitment to help the company achieve that vision,” said Bill Bullock, senior vice president of economic development and statewide operations for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, a partner in Taysha’s recruitment to the state.

“It also reinforces North Carolina’s commitment to providing best-in-class talent to attract these types of investments, and the state’s position as a global leader in gene therapy manufacturing.”

Employees to average about $120K a year

Taysha said the people being hired for the new Triangle facility will make a minimum average wage of $119,751.

"The pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and innovation to keep us healthy,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a news release announcing the investment. “Companies like Taysha Gene Therapies continue to expand in North Carolina because we have the scientists, skilled workers and climate for innovation they need to tackle health care’s toughest challenges.”

“North Carolina continues to lead the way into new frontiers of medicine,” added Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland, in what may be his final project in this leadership role before his announced January retirement. “Taysha Gene Therapies joins the nation’s most vibrant center for the life science industry, and I look forward to seeing their contributions add to the stellar reputation of North Carolina’s Research Triangle region.”

Taysha’s expansion will be facilitated, in part, by a job Development Investment Grant approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over the 12-year term of this grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $772 million. The project will bring an annual payroll impact in excess of $22 million for the region once production begins. The JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $4.8 million, dependent upon meeting hiring and capital expenditure milestones. In addition, Taysha will receive a training grant of over $360,000 over a two- to three-year period.

Besides NCBiotech, partners in the Taysha recruitment project included the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, Duke Energy, Durham County, and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.

Taysha is a publicly held company trading on the Nasdaq exchange with the symbol TSHA. The company says Taysha is a word in the Caddo Native American language meaning “ally” or “friend.”

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