Lonza inks $6.9M stem cell supply deal with NIH

CMO Lonza has signed a three-year, $6.9 million agreement with NIH's Center for Regenerative Medicine, signing on to supply stem cells for research purposes.

Under the deal, Lonza will generate and hand over induced pluripotent stem cells, which have the ability to self-renew and become any cell type in the body. From there, NIH will use the cells in its wide-ranging regenerative medicine research, including programs looking at cell-based therapy, neurological disorders, liver ailments and cancer.

A few years ago, when Lonza launched its Pluripotent Stem Cell Innovation Center, the company was looking to speed along the development of stem-cell-based therapies and establish a money-making service offering in the process, COO Stephan Kutzer said in a statement. Now, with NIH's name on a contract, Lonza has validated its investment in induced pluripotent stem cells, Kutzer said, making the service more attractive to researchers and drug developers.

Lonza's stem cell business, located in Maryland, isn't as large as the API and chemical production units on which the company hangs its hat, but as expenses mount and units underperform, CEO Richard Ridinger has said he's disappointed with the custom manufacturing division. Lonza is slashing jobs at many of its plants around the world, and the company has said it wants to focus more on its products and services--like pluripotent stem cells--than on CMO work.

- read Lonza's statement