JSR to acquire Swiss cell line developer Selexis for fusion with KBI

Two years after its acquisition of CDMO KBI Biopharma, JSR is buying Swiss cell line developer Selexis to merge with KBI. (Selexis)

JSR Corporation bought a majority stake in CDMO KBI Biopharma in early 2015, and now it has made another major biotech deal to acquire mammalian cell line developer Selexis, planning to combine it with KBI.

Switzerland-based Selexis excels in CHO-K1 cell line generation. CHO (Chinese hamster ovary) cells are among the most dependable host cells for large-scale production of therapeutic proteins. Since they’ve been used for over six decades, the cell line has undergone many mutations, but Selexis had sequenced its cell line by 2011. With that understanding of its cell line, Selexis is able to modify CHO cells to address productivity and protein expression bottlenecks.

The company incorporates all its services on a comprehensive cell line development program called SUREtechnology Platform, which is recognized as a fast and cost-effective approach for production of almost any recombinant protein.

The company touts that the platform allows “stable and high-performing manufacturing” of cell lines in about three months with productivity levels of 1-7 g/L for MAbs.

“Selexis has the best-in-class cell line development technology and offers the ability to solve some of the most difficult expression challenges in biologics development,” said Eric R. Johnson, president of JSR’s life sciences division, in a release.

Based on that platform, Selexis offers services in cell line development, lead identification and genome characterization.

Founded in 2001, Selexis has grown from a small company with a laboratory based at the University of Lausanne with just one scientist and a seed investment of 100,000 Swiss Francs, to one with over 30 employees. It has been involved in 76 biologic drug development programs and three commercial products, including a therapeutic monoclonal antibody, a difficult-to-express protein used to treat an autoimmune disease, and a biologic to treat cancer.

Its list of partners runs over 100, including Agenus, Amgen, CSL, Merrimack, etc. Just a few days ago, the company reached an agreement with Merck KGaA, allowing the latter to use its SUREtechnology Platform for immuno-oncology antibody program. The company officially opened a new state-of-the-art laboratory and corporate headquarters in Geneva last month.

Though financial details were not shared, JSR made it clear that it will integrate Selexis with KBI “to create the most robust and fastest ‘Gene to GMP’ service offering in the biopharmaceutical industry,” the company said in the release. Combining services offered by the two will enable them “to take [the clients’] R&D programs from transfection to investigational new drug (IND) application in less than nine months,said Selexis CEO Igor Fisch, Ph.D., in the release.

KBI and Selexis have previously worked together on behalf of their partners. KBI has performed development or manufacturing services using more than 15 different Selexis-generated cell lines since 2012.

Japanese conglomerate JSR, together with Tokyo-based CMIC Holdings and Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, bought KBI in 2015. The CDMO, founded in 1996, has a proven track record of cell line development, process development, as well as clinical and commercial manufacturing.

KBI currently operates from four facilities in Durham and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, in Boulder, Colorado, and one focused on cell therapy products in the Houston area the company just bought through an acquisition of Opexa Therapeutics in February.

JSR just announced plans to invest about $30 million to expand manufacturing capacity at its Durham and Boulder facilities. Part of that project includes building commercial mammalian cell culture manufacturing capability at the Durham facility, which also hosts cell culture lines for clinical production. JSR is also planning an expansion in Europe for KBI by opening an analytical services laboratory at JSR’s subsidiary, JSR Micro NV, in Leuven, Belgium in the first quarter of 2018. The acquisition of Selexis will for sure strengthen its foothold in Europe.