BioBuzz by Workforce Genetics

Center for Breakthrough Medicines Beats Back on the 2022 Biotech Bear Market with Rapid Hiring and Expansion

Since its launch, The Center for Breakthrough Medicines (CBM) has seen exponential growth as a concierge life sciences services organization. That growth was highlighted during the first quarter of this year with the hiring of approximately 200 additional people.

Audrey Greenberg, co-founder of CBM and also the executive director of The Discovery Labs, said the successful growth seen at CBM is a testament to the great company culture the organization has built since its founding in 2019. Among the hires in the first quarter of this year is John Lee, PhD, the new Vice President and Head of Cell Therapy. Lee, an accomplished CAR-T immunobiologist, was hired in March to lead cell therapy programs at CBM. Prior to joining CBM, Lee established the Cell Therapy Platform team at Janssen Pharmaceuticals. He also served as head of Oncology Cell Therapy at GlaxoSmithKline.

Lee reports to CBM’s Chief Executive Officer Joerg Ahlgrimm, who was brought on to build out the organization’s capacity to support the manufacturing of cell and gene therapies. Ahlgrimm, who previously served as chief operations officer for the organization, joined CBM after serving as Head of Global Operations Pharma Biotech and Nutrition at Lonza.

Audrey Greenberg, Co-founder of the Center for Breakthrough Medicines

Calling the first three months of the year “quite interesting,” Greenberg said CBM entered the contract development world at the right time when there is “positive momentum” for outsourcing. In an interview with BioBuzz, Greenberg explained that many pharma companies are keeping a tight hold on their capital, which means they are moving toward a new manufacturing model that requires contract development organizations like CBM. Recent industry data shows that approximately 52% of cell therapy manufacturing is outsourced, while 88% of viral vector manufacturing is outsourced. That’s a trend that will likely continue due to the complexity of the process and CBM is in place to service the needs of those companies.

“We’re now offering a best-in-class facility with market-leading expertise. We can support full development and outsourcing for cell and gene therapies,” Greenberg said. “When we started the company, our vision was to create a concierge white glove service that does what we say we will do.”

So far, CBM is living up to that promise.

Last month, CBM forged a manufacturing deal with U.K.-based Achilles Therapeutics to support the company’s clinical trial needs for advanced non-small cell lung cancer and metastatic or recurrent melanoma patients. Greenberg said the trans-Atlantic partnership with Achilles highlights the important role CBM is playing in the cell therapy space.

 “We employ the most sophisticated scheduling, supply chain and inventory control systems integrated with market-leading comprehensive in-process testing, quality control, and lot release programs in the industry. Our ability to deliver customizable manufacturing solutions for partners seeking autologous cell therapy production positions us well with Achilles, the cell therapy market and the advanced therapies industry in general,” she said.

Another recent highlight for CBM is the financial partnership with South Korea-based SK, Inc., which provided the organization with financial backing of $350 million, as well as a potential pipeline of customers, Greenberg said. She noted that SK’s company culture is a perfect fit for CBM. The SK logo is “the wings of happiness,” Greenberg said, meaning they are motivated by happiness. That’s a concept she found refreshing.

In January, CBM also forged a sponsored research and joint manufacturing agreement with the University of Pennsylvania’s Gene Therapy Program that will combine the knowledge of the researchers at UPenn with CBM’s manufacturing expertise and capacity. Under the auspices of the fifteen-year partnership, the organizations aim to move experimental gene therapies safely and rapidly from concept to clinic by combining the strengths of both organizations. The partnership is expected to enable gene therapy developers to enter the field sooner and with less risk through the scalable platform.

At the time the partnership was announced, Ahlgrimm said access to Penn’s Gene Therapy Program makes the Center for Breakthrough Medicines an “appealing manufacturing partner with a differentiated offering” that is able to offer speed to clinic and a combined commercially-viable process.

“This partnership with the Gene Therapy Program at the University of Pennsylvania enables our clients with the potential to advance to Investigational New Drugs with a high-quality process, materials, and analytical methods in half the time,” Greenberg said.

If those weren’t highlight enough, CBM is also expanding. This year alone, CBM is expected to build out 680,000 square feet of space, with 500,000 square feet expected to be completed by the end of 2022. Coinciding with this rapid scaling of capabilities, Greenberg said the organization has the ability to run 100 different programs in parallel, which highlights the need for additional staffing. Greenberg said they intend to double their headcount by the end of the year, growing to 2,000 in the next couple years. Greenberg said the organization will continue to hire senior management level positions, viral vector manufacturing operators, analytical development and testing specialists, cell processing technicians, laboratory specialists, quality assurance professionals, warehouse employees, supply chain specialists, as well as accounting, finance, and IT professionals.

CBM is also continuing to acquire and build technologies that can be offered to their clients, she added.

“CBM is hiring and we’re open for business. We’re looking to partner with the best and the brightest sponsors, innovators and employees,” Greenberg said. 

Interested in joining the team? Check out CBM’s current job openings on their website.