DNA in a bottle

Gene therapy has gone into business. Two commercial plants are now manufacturing and selling therapeutic cells, derived from human stem cells, that could spark genetic fixes for a range of chronic conditions. Until now, these regenerative cells have only been lab creatures, not merchandise.

In March, Osaka-based Sumitomo Dainippon opened a 30,000 square foot, $340-million plant that will produce three kinds of cells to treat three different conditions. The company says that the plant will produce enough of each kind of cell to treat hundreds of patients every year.

And Swiss biotech company Lonza has opened a plant near Houston that’s ten times the size of its Japanese competitor.

Lonza says the plant’s 200 workers will produce enough cells to treat thousands of people a year, including those with rare genetic conditions, as well as treating patients with more common life-threatening illnesses.


By making therapeutic cells available to biotech start-ups and other sectors, factories like these will speed research and the commercialization of gene-based treatments for a range of chronic conditions. Look for other biotech firms to set up their own manufacturing plants, to cash in on what could be an almost limitless market.

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