Last month, Editas formed a collaboration with Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio) to develop in vivo CRISPR medicines to treat neurological diseases. The alliance led to a question from an analyst on a recent quarterly results conference call about what AskBio is bringing to the table.
Responding to the analyst question, Charles Albright, chief scientific officer at Editas, put AskBio’s manufacturing infrastructure and expertise front and center.
Albright said. “They have an excellent manufacturing facility. They've acquired some significant businesses that go with their core business and complement the core expertise they developed in adeno-associated viruses (AAV) manufacturing.”
AskBio operates a current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) manufacturing facility in San Sebastian, Spain, with Columbus Venture Partners. The manufacturing facility, which received cGMP certification from the European Medicines Agency earlier this year, produces double-strand AAV.
Columbus Venture came on board to support the creation of the facility in 2017. Together, AskBio and Columbus Venture created the contract development and manufacturing organization Viralgen.
AskBio transferred its cell line, process and manufacturing experience to Viralgen. Both parties, plus the Basque government, provided financial support.
The facility houses three cGMP production suites. Early stage work is supported by a 50L bioreactor. Other single-use stirred-tank bioreactors, of up to 500L, give the facility a total capacity of 1,250L.
Viralgen wants to add more capacity. The current roadmap calls for Viralgen to establish support for scales of up to 2,000L by the end of 2021, equipping it to meet demand for commercial capacity.
Editas’ interest in partnering with AskBio to access the capacity comes at a time when the rapid expansion of the global cell and gene therapy pipeline is causing demand to outstrip supply.
As Albright noted, the partnership also positions Editas to benefit from some of the acquisitions AskBio has made to complement its core capabilities.
In recent months, AskBio has acquired nanocapsule delivery technology from RoverMed BioSciences and bought Synpromics for its gene control synthetic promoter technology.
Working with Editas, AskBio will apply its capabilities to the development of treatments for neurological diseases, starting with severe pain. Albright said the targets are genetically validated but beyond that limited information is available publicly at this stage.