Novartis Closes Colorado Gene Manufacturing Site Two Years After Acquisition

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In 2019, Novartis subsidiary AveXis announced it acquired a manufacturing facility in Longmont, Colorado to provide additional production capacity for Zolgensma, a gene therapy treatment for spinal muscular atrophy. Just two years later, the facility will be closed and 400 people will be without a job.

According to The Longmont Times-Call, the 692,000-square-foot complex will be shuttered by July 9. The facility had initially been acquired to bolster two existing production sites for the gene therapy, one in North Carolina and one in Illinois.

This week, the Swiss pharma giant said the need for the third manufacturing facility in Colorado was not necessary, and that it will be able to meet manufacturing demands for the gene therapy at its other two locations.

“We will now focus on meeting the needs of patients through our Libertyville, Illinois and Durham, North Carolina sites, where we will continue to invest in next-generation processes,” the company said in a statement to the Times-Call.

Before acquiring the Colorado facility, Novartis announced a nearly $60 million investment to expand its gene therapy manufacturing facility in North Carolina. The expansion of the Durham, N.C. site appears to have been robust enough to support demand for Zolgensma.

Some of the 400 employees who work at the Colorado facility will be given the chance to transfer into other positions within the company. However, it is unclear how many will be allowed to do so.

Last year, AveXis was rebranded as Novartis Gene Therapies in recognition of the growing importance of gene therapy to the Swiss company’s pipeline. Zolgensma, which was approved in 2019 shortly after the acquisition of the Longmont facility, carries the whopping price tag of $2.125 million. Zolgensma tops the GoodRx list of the 10 most expensive drugs in the world.  

The decision to close the Longmont facility puts that six-building campus back on the market. It had previously been occupied by AstraZeneca before that company sold it to Novartis for $30 million. Novartis said it will explore all options on how to divest the property, the Times-Call reported.

This certainly isn’t the first time Novartis has shuttered a facility in Colorado. In 2017, the company closed its generic-drug manufacturing facility in Broomfield, Colo. That decision cost 450 jobs. The facility’s operations, which had been under Novartis’ Sandoz division, were transferred to the newer manufacturing center in Wilson, N.C. Many of the drugs manufactured at the Bloomfield site had become uncompetitive in the generics market.

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