AveXis to Expand Its NC Manufacturing Facility, Plans to Hire 200
Less than one year after AveXis, a Novartis company, announced plans to construct a manufacturing facility in North Carolina, expansion plans are in the works that are expected to provide up to 200 additional jobs.
On Monday, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced the expansion to the company’s Durham facility that was first announced in May 2018. Initially, the company planned to invest $55 million into the manufacturing facility where the company will make its first product, AVXS-101, a gene therapy to treat three types of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). That initial investment expected to provide space for about 200 jobs. Now, with AVXS-101, now dubbed Zolgensma, close to a presumed approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, AveXis is increasing its investment in the N.C. facility. According to the governor’s office, the subsidiary of Novartis plans to invest an additional $60 million in the plant and increase the headcount by 200. AveXis was acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion in 2018.
Andy Stober, chief technical officer of AveXis, said that continued investment in the company’s North Carolina infrastructure will allow AveXis to manufacture its gene therapies more quickly and allow the company to deliver products to patients faster. In addition to its SMA gene therapy, AveXis is also focused on developing gene therapies for genetic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis caused by mutations to the SOD1 gene and Rett syndrome.
“Gene therapy manufacturing requires a highly skilled team, and Research Triangle Park is an ideal location for our continued expansion as it enables us to recruit top talent, including through partnership with local schools and colleges,” Stober said in a statement.
With the expansion in North Carolina, the company is expected to create a number of positions in various fields, including scientists, engineers, analysts, manufacturing and operations personnel. Salaries for the new positions will average $72,952, which is higher than the current Durham County average wage of $68,731.
When AveXis, which was based in Illinois, first chose North Carolina for its manufacturing site, the company received an incentives package from the state. The additional expansion also includes potential financial incentives from the state of North Carolina. If the company hits certain milestones from the expansion, AveXis could receive reimbursements from the state of up to $1,447,500, spread over 12 years.
Zolgensma previously received Breakthrough Therapy designation and has been granted Priority Review by the FDA, with regulatory action anticipated in May 2019. When Novartis’ Zolgensma was granted Priority Review, the price point for the treatment, which could be a “one-and-done” procedure, was pegged between $4 and $5 million. Despite the multi-million cost of the one-and-done treatment, the Boston-based nonprofit organization Institute for Clinical and Economic Review has actually pegged Zolgensma as more cost effective than the only SMA treatment on the market, Biogen’s Spinraza, which requires annual injections that have a price tag of $375,000 per year.