Lonza, a Swiss pharma supplier, and Chr. Hansen, a Danish supplier of bacterial products, are teaming up to enter the promising microbiome space. Together, the two companies will invest €90M in the creation of the first company that will offer a full supply chain to produce treatments made of live bacteria.
Their 50/50 joint venture will have its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. The money will be spent on creating medical-grade production facilities for live biotherapeutic products, by upgrading existing facilities in Hørsholm, Denmark and equipping new facilities in Basel.
In recent years, scientists have become aware of the huge impact the bacteria living in and on our bodies — the human microbiome — has on health conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to cancer. A growing number of companies have been created in the last decade seeking to treat the human microbiome, and a large proportion of them aim to do so with therapies consisting of a beneficial bacterial strain.
Lonza and Chr. Hansen estimate that there are 100 such therapies worldwide at different stages of development, 5 of them approaching commercialization. However, there are currently no companies able to manufacture this new kind of therapy from beginning to end.
Medical-grade manufacturing of live bacteria remains a challenge. But the partners believe they have the expertise to overcome it. One of the issues is that many of these bacteria can’t survive in the presence of oxygen; Chr. Hansen has experience handling the whole manufacturing process without any contact with oxygen. Another issue is that standard pills can’t be used to orally deliver live bacteria; for that Lonza plans to use a new coating technology it recently acquired.
The new venture will spend half of the money on building medical-grade facilities that can serve companies working on projects at different stages of development ranging from preclinical to phase II. From 2022, the rest of the money will be invested in scaling up to offer large batches of live bacterial products that can supply phase III trials and commercial production. After that, the venture expects to be self-funded through client contracts.
With the first live therapies approaching commercialization, Lonza and Chr. Hansen are targeting a market with huge potential. They estimate the supply industry for microbiome therapies will be valued at up to €200M by 2025, and €1B by 2035.