Vertex doubles size of cystic fibrosis drug discovery site

Vertex Pharma
The site’s work led to the approval of breakthrough cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco and its successors, Orkambi and Symdeko. (Vertex)

Vertex has more than doubled the size of the San Diego research site that discovered its key cystic fibrosis drugs. The newly expanded site covers 170,000 square feet, boosting Vertex’s ability to hunt for the next generation of blockbusters.

Boston-based Vertex committed to growing the then-80,000-square-foot site and gradually adding 70 staff to its 180-person team late in 2015. Having aimed to have the expanded site ready in the second half of 2017, the builders topped out the facility on time 12 months ago. Now, Vertex has formally opened the new laboratory.

Vertex has given 70% of the new facility over to lab and research space. Another 4,000 square feet of space will house an incubator for external collaboration, reflecting Vertex’s interest in tapping into the San Diego biotech scene to support its R&D plans.

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The San Diego site is focused on cystic fibrosis. That focus dates back to the origins of the site, which Vertex gained control of in its $592 million all-stock takeover of Aurora Biosciences. The site’s work led to the approval of breakthrough cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco and its successors, Orkambi and Symdeko.

These drugs have changed the lives of cystic fibrosis patients with certain mutations. But other patients are yet to reap the benefits and there is scope to improve quality of life measures for all people with cystic fibrosis. Armed with equipment to grow lung cells for drug screening and other technologies, the San Diego site will work toward these goals.

“Our researchers in San Diego have spent the last 20 years doing what was once thought impossible—developing the first medicines that treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis,” Vertex CSO David Altshuler, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. “This team is a critical part of our global research effort, and the new site will allow us to continue investing in science to bring more transformative medicines to people with serious diseases.”

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