Ori Biotech Bags Investment of 88 million euros to automate the production of cell therapies

Ori Biotech Bags Investment of 88 million euros to automate the production of cell therapies

British company Ori Biotech has raised € 88 million ($ 100 million) in Series B cash to alleviate the bottleneck in cell therapy manufacturing using automation and standardized data collection.

The round was underwritten in excess of 40% and was led by the US investment firm Novalis LifeSciences. Chinese investor Puhua Capital and Chimera Abu Dhabi have joined the existing syndicate, which includes Amadeus Capital Partners, Delin Ventures and others.

The proceeds will fuel Ori Biotech’s recruitment drive as the company prepares to commercialize its cell therapy manufacturing technology. Ori expects to hit the market in the first half of 2023.

There is a lot of things to do: get production and supply chains, strengthen our sales team,”Said Jason Foster, CEO of Ori Biotech. “We already have six or seven people on our sales team, but we want more. “

The excitement for this year is to put some of that capital into building solid infrastructure within the company.

In the past two years, record levels of venture capital funding have inflated the cell and gene therapy industries. However, these complex therapies remain difficult and expensive to produce because the process requires huge structures and high levels of manual labor. Furthermore, culturing fragile human cells typically results in variable yields.

These are highly manual processes in which highly skilled operators are present who link different operations together: welding of pipes, passage under the hood and manual micropipetting of samples,Foster said. “It makes it very difficult to downsize these processes because so much human intervention is required. “

Ori Biotech aims to produce automated “mini factories” that reduce space and personnel requirements in the cell therapy manufacturing process by up to 90%. The technology combines engineering and biological know-how with a data collection system to monitor the process in a standardized way.

I think right now, unfortunately, much of the industry is operating in the analog world, for example with paper batch records and lab notebooks.“said Foster.”We are helping the industry evolve into a truly digital-first approach leading to paperless manufacturing, which will allow us to scale much more efficiently and further reduce costs.. “

Another challenge that slows the growth of cell production and gene therapies is the lack of qualified personnel. Several cell therapy companies, including Orgenesis in the United States, are investing in automation to get around the problem.

We have PhD immunologists who are very skilled and hard to find; there aren’t enough of them out thereFoster noted. “I’m not sure we’re optimizing their skills. If we can automate some of those processes that require lower skill levels, we can empower those highly skilled people to do their job.

Many biotech companies are working to make cell therapy production cheaper and faster. Bit.bio, based in the UK, is one of many working on cellular reprogramming, a method of efficiently converting stem cells into the desired cell type. TreeFrog Therapeutics in France raised a € 64 million Series B round in September 2021 to fund technology that increases the yield of cell therapy by coating fragile cells in a protective shell.

No single company can solve the cell therapy manufacturing puzzle, Foster said; each innovation is likely to have a major impact on a different part of the production line. The innovations at stake could also lead to an era in which small research centers and companies can compete with the large centralized manufacturing facilities available to large pharmaceutical companies.

Some of the more interesting trends in cell manufacturing and gene therapies include the growth of digital tools for data collection as well as companies working on ways to genetically engineer cells without the costly process of using viral vectors.

[Viral production] it is a very expensive part of the process“said Foster.”So if we can look at other mechanisms for carrying out the gene transfer that are compatible with Ori … then this could be a big step forward for the industry.

Cover image via Elena Resko

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