By Alex Keown
General Electric is diving deeper into the world of biotechnology. The conglomeration is launching prefabricated manufacturing units to product virus-based gene and cell therapies, Reuters reported this morning.
General Electric will also focus its new programs on novel anti-cancer treatments and vaccines. With the increased interest in these new therapies, General Electric sees opportunity, Reuters said. The company, which might be best known for its household products, will deliver a “factory-in-a-box” service that is specifically designed for viral vector-based medicine, Reuters said.
With more than 700 viral vector-based therapies currently undergoing clinical studies, General Electric believes that will spur demand for “biologically secure bioreactors to churn out products,” Reuters said. Because of the large number of therapies, Reuters reported that General Electric is banking on its off-the-shelf factories.
Called the KUBio factory, General Electric said it is a “turnkey biomanufacturing solution for cGMP production.” GE said that most companies make large investments in manufacturing facilities well-ahead of any sort of regulatory approval – or any sort of knowledge if a product can achieve clinical efficacy. GE though said with the KUBio system companies can wait until Phase III trial results are known and then harness the power of the KUBio system. By doing that, GE said companies will be market ready when regulatory approval is given. Through the use of its KUBio product, the company said the facilities will allow companies to begin manufacturing drug products within 18 months at a fraction of the cost. That will reduce the time and money it takes to get a product to market, the company said.
When selecting a KUBio system, companies can choose a “flexible, prefabricated cGMP biomanufacturing facility with a configurable production line.” The GE system allows for potential expansion and minimizes necessary infrastructure. As a case in point, GE pointed to pharma giant Pfizer that opted to go with a KUBio system in China. According to a GE report, Pfizer opted to go with the KUBio system to cut traditional construction time in half. The cost of the design was also about 50 percent less than traditional factory construction, GE said. Not only is it faster and less expensive, GE noted its KUBio system reduces CO2 emissions by 75 percent and water and energy use by 80 percent.
In its analysis, Reuters noted that General Electric is also advancing its off-the-shelf manufacturing systems to include newly approved gene and cell therapies such as CAR-T treatments like Gilead’s Yescarta and Novartis’ Kymriah. To support that kind of manufacturing system, GE acquired U.K.-based Asymptote, which specialized in “freezing, preserving and transporting large volumes of living cells,” Reuters said. By the year 2025, General Electric is anticipating a business worth more than $! Billion annually.
A spokesperson for General Electric said the company is currently in talks with “several potential customers” for the new off-the-shelf factories.