GE pockets single-use biotech firm

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Biotechnology, Ge

GE Healthcare has snapped up specialist in disposable manufacturing
technologies Wave Biotech, adding a host of new products and
services for the biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector to its
catalogue.

The acquisition, announced late yesterday, adds a whole new line of cost-effective processing products to GE's capabilities, strengthening the company's presence in biopharmaceutical manufacture supplies. "GE already has a huge presence in protein purification, particularly for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals,"​ Val Jones of GE told In-PharmaTechnologist.com. "So we've been present in the down-stream part of the business, and Wave is active in up-stream processes - fermenting, culturing for example. It was the company's unique technology that was attractive to GE." ​ The key feature of Wave's product portfolio is it disposability; the company develops and manufactures disposable bioreactors designed to replace traditional (and expensive) stainless steel tanks and piping. Key products for the company alongside the Wave Bioreactor include the Wave Mixer and Sterile Tube Fuser, all of which feature disposable contact materials that contribute to reducing costs in operations such as cell culture, media preparation, buffer dissolution and thawing process intermediates. The products, essentially "very sophisticated polythene bags"​ according to Jones, do away will the lengthy processes of validation and cleaning needed with permanent stainless steel equipment. According to the companies, this single-use bioreactor offers advantages such as much more rapid installation - thus potentially reducing time to market - and significant cost and time savings by eliminating the need for cleaning and validation between batches. Wave estimates that savings in cleaning time and turnaround through using the disposable bioreactor result in an overall operating cost of 1/3 of that of a stirred tank. "It takes a lot of the hassle out of biopharmaceutical manufacture​," said Jones. According to Wave, the capital cost of the Wave Bioreactor is about 30 per cent of a stirred tank and procurement/commissioning time can be reduced from the six to ten months common with stirred tank installations to a few days. The equipment is already in use in hundreds of companies around the world in both commercial and R&D applications, and according to Wave is increasingly being used to enable the manufacture of patient-specific cell and gene therapy products. This acquisition brings expertise in a whole new area to the GE catalogue, having previously been present in both research and down-stream processes the company will now be able to offer disposable technologies for culturing, establishing its presence in all aspects of product development. "We'll be serving our current customer segment but will now be present in all parts of the process,"​ said Jones. "It will be an end-to-end service in biopharmaceutical manufacture." ​ Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Jones noted that although an important purchase it was not in the same league as GE's acquisition of Biacore last year for around $400m (€295m). Wave Biotech generates annual revenues of around $25m. "The number of biopharmaceuticals in Phase I and Phase II is increasing rapidly, so the market for [Wave's] products will be biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, with cell therapy also becoming an emerging market,"​ Jones commented. GE will continue to operate Wave's R&D, manufacturing and administration site in Somerset, New Jersey, as well as the company's European headquarters in Cork, Ireland.

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