RALEIGH, N.C. – A French biomedical firm that uses gene-editing technology to develop cancer treatments, plans to invest $68 million in a Raleigh plant, officials said Thursday.
Cellectis will hire up to 200 people for the plant, which will be the company’s first North American manufacturing operation.
Although a number of biotechnology firms already create cancer drugs by taking a patient’s own white blood cells and editing the genes to fight the disease, Cellectis has figured out how to take T-cells from a healthy donor and edit those genes so they can be used for specific types of cancers in many patients. That means they can make more of treatment more cheaply.
“It is now our intent to build the world’s first manufacturing facility, in North Carolina, that will put together gene editing along with cellular immunotherapy,” Cellectis Senior Vice President Bill Monteith, who will oversee the plant, said during a news conference at the State Capitol. “Helping people living with certain types of blood cancers remains our core focus. We hope that through the creation of this manufacturing facility in North Carolina that we will be able to bring cost-effective, accessible treatments to cancer patients in the very near future.
Monteith said the Triangle’s talent pool in life sciences is what drew Cellectis to North Carolina. Wake Technical Community College and North Carolina State University will help train workers, he said.
Bill Bullock, senior vice president of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, said Cellectis adds to the state’s strength in biomanufacturing.
“North Carolina is now a global center of excellence for the development and manufacturing of a whole new era of biotherapeutics that have the potential to create thousands of jobs,” Bullock said. “[Companies] are transforming this leading-edge gene editing into these new therapies.”
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane also noted that the number of life science jobs in the city has grown by nearly 16 percent in five years, outpacing growth in all other sectors.
The state approved a Job Development Investment Grant for the company that will allow it to receive rebates of up to $2 million in state withholding taxes over 12 years if it meets annual investment and hiring targets.
Chris Chung, executive director of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said JDIG awards are based on the withholding amounts, so Cellectis can be paid up to $10,000 per job over the life of the grant because the jobs it’s creating have an average salary of $100,000.