Philadelphia is seeing a significant expansion of space for new facilities for cell and gene therapy and other life science companies through the expansion of sites like Discovery Labs or the redevelopment of the vacant Budd factory. Joining the ranks is the recent opening of the Amicus Therapeutics Global Gene Therapy and Research Center of Excellence and a facility for Iovance in the city’s Navy Yard.
Amicus facility, combined with expansion of its gene therapy collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, enables company to expand portfolio of therapeutics for lysosomal overload disorders and rare diseases such as Rett syndrome , Angelman syndrome and certain other muscular dystrophies.
For Amicus, the expansion should allow the company to strengthen its presence in Philadelphia and become an attractive centerpiece to present to potential employees. And that was the intention of the CRB design team.
Viktoriya Lupareva, NCIDQ, Head of Interior Design at CRB, a leading provider of sustainable engineering, architecture, construction and consulting solutions for the food and beverage and science industries. life, said that form and function are an integral part of space. For Amicus, Lupareva said CRB wanted to create an inspiring facility so that Amicus could retain and attract talent.
âThey wanted to have an innovative facility that inspires from the moment you walk in,â Lupareva said.
The Amicus facility comprises 75,000 square feet of the top three floors of a new building located on Market Street in Philadelphia. The space includes offices, as well as state-of-the-art laboratories. It is expected to provide space for around 200 researchers and drug developers focused exclusively on gene therapy.
CRB designed the space to be open and inviting for collaboration and inspiration among employees, Lupareva added.
Scott McNallan, director of architectural design at CRB, noted that many gene therapy companies are firmly rooted in their origin stories, which is often reflected in the design and function of the spaces they occupy. Amicus President and CEO John Crowley is well known in the field of rare diseases. Her two children were diagnosed with a rare lysomal disease known as Pompe disease. In order to find the best treatment for them, Crowley, a lawyer by training, got a job in the life science industry, desperately seeking treatment for his children.
Ultimately, Crowley founded Novazyme Pharmaceuticals with the aim of developing a treatment for Pompe disease. Novazyme researchers developed an enzyme replacement therapy that not only enabled Crowley’s children to live well beyond their initial life expectancy, but also gave the same hope to other children with the rare disease. . After serving on the board of Amicus, Crowley became CEO of the company to advance treatments for other rare diseases.
âCrowley’s children and the other children with these rare diseases are so important to Amicus’ story,â McNallan said. âThese children and their families come to the facility and we had to make sure that the environment reflects the purpose they serve. “
As Amicus benefits from its new dig, McNallan predicted that more usable life science lab space will be developed in Philadelphia to meet the needs of the growing biopharmaceutical hub. Some of the facilities are expected to be built to a company’s specifications, while others are likely to be built as speculative properties, McNallan said.
âThis is one of the most important growing markets for cell and gene therapy, it’s a market that’s really exploding,â said McNallan, who helped design the Amicus project and ongoing renovations to the. Budd plan.
In terms of architectural development of the life sciences, CRB designs and develops spaces for the use of life sciences companies with unique challenges when it comes to meeting the needs of form, function, science and technology.
âWe have 1,600 people across the company, the majority of whom are focused on life sciences. We all understand the specific challenges that projects involve, âsaid McNallan.
As Philadelphia continues to grow as a key biopharmaceutical hub, McNallan said there was a concerted effort to meet demands for office and wet lab space. A recent report from CBRE Americas Research noted that Philadelphia has about a 17% vacancy for available wet lab space. The report noted that Philadelphia is the primary hub for new wet lab space in the United States. Based on this report, McNallan said there are multiple responses to growing needs and predicted that over the next three to five years there will be ample space in the city. As an example, he noted that in the Navy Yard, there is a site under construction that will be able to accommodate a wide range of life science uses.
When it comes to reusing an existing facility like the Budd factory, McNallan said his team faces a lot of issues, especially when it comes to vibration sensitivity. A former auto metals factory, the Budd had been vacant for half a century. With the railroad tracks nearby, many vibration issues needed to be addressed, McNallan said. He noted that many test animals used in laboratory research are sensitive to these vibrations, which may impact current research.
Other challenges to overcome included floor loading capabilities and floor-to-floor heights. For Iovance, the leasehold improvements of the 136,000 square foot facility in the Philadelphia Navy Yard was designed and developed by CRB for the commercial and clinical production of autologous tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) products. The site was completed earlier this year and now manufactures clinical TIL supplies.
Alex Keown is a freelance journalist who writes on a variety of topics including the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences industries. Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Alex was a writer and editor for several publications.