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Innovate UK confident in Cobra
KEELE, U.K.—As biopharmaceutical companies in the United Kingdom are investing heavily in increased production, capacity and partnerships, their internal spending is being boosted with significant investments from Innovate UK. And, it appears, Cobra Biologics’ investment in its U.K. facilities is paying off.
Following the 2017 launch of a £15-million plan to expand its operations capacity, Cobra Biologics has recently been awarded two separate grants from Innovate UK, which funds innovation across sectors in the United Kingdom to develop ideas and commercialize new technologies. Both grants will help Cobra to further develop its capacity as a leading European contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) in cell and gene therapies.
In January, Innovate UK awarded Cobra a £2.6-million grant (about $3.4 million) to be used for continued capital infrastructure investment. That grant will bolster the £15-million company expansion announced in 2017 to advance its capability for commercial production of viral vectors and DNA used in gene therapy and immuno-oncology programs.
The first Cobra award is part of Innovate UK’s Industrial Strategy, a long-term plan aimed at boosting productivity and earning power throughout the country. One key component of the overarching strategy is the Life Sciences Sector Deal, which will support a major new life-sciences facility in the United Kingdom by MSD (known as Merck & Co. in North America), QIAGEN and other partners like Cobra.
“Today’s investment provides strong evidence that a coherent industrial strategy can have a real, tangible impact on economic activity in sectors that we need to strengthen and grow,” said Sir John Bell, chair of the Life Science Industrial Strategy Advisory Board. “It will drive this sector forward and simultaneously attract other investments into the U.K.”
This grant, which will allow increased process development, analytics and GMP manufacturing, will double the footprint of Cobra’s U.K. site and create 25 to 35 additional jobs.
Peter Coleman, chief executive of Cobra Biologics, commented, “Cobra is undertaking a very significant expansion of our viral and DNA manufacturing capability, and we are very pleased to have received funding from Innovate UK to help accelerate our plans. The investment recognizes Cobra as a leading company in the cell and gene therapy market and provides us, and the U.K., with a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of developing revolutionary disease therapies and new treatments for patients.”
Innovate UK also made a significant investment in Cobra under its Health and Life Sciences Programme, through a 16-month collaborative grant of £1.9 million in partnership with contract manufacturing organization Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services. Symbiosis specializes in sterile fill finish (the aseptic filling of sterile drugs into sterile packaging), a critical step in biopharmaceutical manufacturing.
According to Dr. Ian Campbell, director of health and life sciences at Innovate UK, “The U.K. is at the forefront of research into these new therapies, but there is a global shortage in viral vector manufacturing capacity and we need to act to take advantage of the commercial opportunities. Innovate UK funding for this vital project can help boost this sector and meet the needs of patients in the future.”
The grant will support a larger £4.8-million joint investment to allow Cobra and Symbiosis to expand their clinical and commercial production of gene and immunotherapy viral vectors for both drug substance and drug product manufacturing. Both companies will be able to streamline their manufacturing, while reducing risk through operational and commercial alignment. The resulting supply chain offering will support the clinical and commercial ambitions of drug developers, leading to more innovative gene and immunotherapy medicines reaching patients.
“We are delighted to be working with Cobra on this project, with the aim of developing a U.K.-based supply chain to both facilitate and accelerate the successful clinical and commercial manufacture of viral vectors,” says Colin MacKay, chief executive of Symbiosis. “Our well-established track record in viral vector fill finish for clinical trials positions Symbiosis alongside our partner Cobra in building drug development for shared clients and the UK’s burgeoning capabilities in the field of advanced therapy manufacturing.”