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Thermo Fisher buys into gene therapy with $1.7 billion deal

Acquisition of Brammer Bio will add viral vectors to a growing range of contract services

by Rick Mullin
March 25, 2019

A photo of a man in protective garb sorting through packets.
Credit: Brammer Bio
A technician at work at Brammer Bio's facility in Alachua, Florida.

Continuing its push into the pharmaceutical services business, Thermo Fisher Scientific will acquire Brammer Bio, a contract manufacturer of viral vectors based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for $1.7 billion.

The deal will put Thermo Fisher at the frontier of services for gene therapy, a fast-growing sector in drug research aimed at developing targeted therapies for rare diseases.

Thanks largely to its 2015 acquisition of Patheon, Thermo Fisher already offers a wide range of contract services to the drug industry, including the production of small-molecule pharmaceuticals, final-dose pill manufacturing, and biologics production and finishing.

James Bruno, president of the consulting firm Cap Solutions, notes that Thermo Fisher is adding viral vectors to a plate that became very full after the Patheon acquisition. “I think they are going to have a good run at it, and I think they are going to do fairly well,” Bruno says. “But there comes a point where there’s a lot of integration and a point of how much can you do at any given time. They have pulled in an awful lot in a relatively short period.”

Viral vectors are recombinant viruses used in gene therapy as vehicles for delivering DNA into cells. Thermo Fisher will join a growing number of contract development and manufacturing organizations—including Lonza, WuXi AppTec, and Novasep—that offer viral vector manufacturing services.

Brammer, formed in the 2016 merger of Brammer Biopharmaceuticals and Florida Biologix, makes vectors for several gene therapy firms, including Voyager Therapeutics, Sarepta Therapeutics, and Spark Therapeutics. The company claims to have completed over 100 projects to supply first-in-human gene therapy clinical trials and establish commercial manufacturing processes. With 600 employees, Brammer expects to log $250 million in revenue this year, maintaining a growth rate of 25% annually.

Last year, Brammer announced a three-year, $200 million investment program aimed at establishing over 30 suites for clinical and commercial viral vector supply for gene therapies and gene modified cell therapies. The project includes the renovation of a 4,600 m2 facility in Lexington, Massachusetts, that will be used as a second commercial plant after the firm’s original site in Alachua, Florida.

Others are investing as well. Lonza, for example, recently opened a 28,000 m2 facility in Pearland, Texas, that the Swiss firm claims is the world’s largest cell- and gene-therapy manufacturing plant.

And the biotech firm Bluebird Bio announced last week the opening of an 11,600 m2 viral vector manufacturing facility of its own in Durham, North Carolina. The company also works with contractors including Brammer, Lonza, and Novasep.


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