AstraZeneca to Invest $300M in Rockville Manufacturing Facility for Cancer Treatments

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Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca is betting big on Rockville, Md., with plans to develop a manufacturing site for cancer treatments, the company announced Tuesday. 

The company will invest $300 million to renovate and update an existing 84,264-square-foot facility, which will kick-start its cell therapy platform in the U.S. for clinical trials.

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The facility will initially focus on manufacturing T-cell therapies, which modify certain white blood cells to identify and attack cancer cells, though the company noted that it may eventually expand operations toward other disease treatments. The investment is also expected to create more than 150 highly skilled jobs.

Built in 2020, the facility at 9950 Medical Center Drive is less than five miles from one of AstraZeneca’s research and development centers in Gaithersburg and is in close proximity to the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and Montgomery College, according to the company. AstraZeneca leased the building from Alexandria Real Estate Equities last year, though the lease terms were undisclosed. The building was initially leased to biotech firm Autolus Therapeutics, though that lease was terminated in 2021 as Autolus instead opted to expand its operations in its native U.K.

“This new $300 million investment will accelerate our ambition to make next-generation cell therapy a reality, ensuring that we are ready to scale and meet the demands of patients,” Pam Cheng, AstraZeneca’s executive vice president of global operations & IT, said in a statement.

The facility will be the latest in the Cambridge, U.K.-based AstraZeneca’s portfolio of almost 30 supply and manufacturing sites spread across 16 countries. AstraZeneca’s U.S. facilities alone create more than 9 billion doses of medicines on an annual basis, according to the company.

“This significant investment in our life sciences sector will help maintain Maryland’s leadership in the industry and sharpen our competitive edge,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said in a statement. Rockville is a key city on what’s known as the Interstate 270 Technology Corridor, with an especially strong showing in the life sciences and biotechnology sectors. 

The new Rockville project is expected to be fully operational by 2026, according to the governor’s office.

Maryland’s Department of Commerce is attempting to approve a $500,000 conditional loan for the project to help with development costs, per the governor’s office. Montgomery County is also planning a $100,000 conditional loan for the project via its Economic Development Fund.

Aside from the new Rockville site, AstraZeneca — which may be better known by the public for its COVID vaccine — has invested heavily in T-cell therapy development. The company announced a partnership with Quell Therapeutics last June to develop and manufacture such therapies for autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease. 

The company also completed its acquisition of biotech company Neogene Therapeutics in January 2023 for $200 million, with an additional payout of $120 million if the company reaches certain targeted goals. Neogene specializes in developing new T-cell therapies that further refine their cancer-targeting capabilities.

Nick Trombola can be reached at NTrombola@commercialobserver.com.