AveXis, a Novartis company, has agreed to purchase the former AstaZeneca facility on Nelson Road in Longmont. Courtesy Binswanger.

Swiss biotech company to create hundreds of jobs at AstraZeneca Longmont facility

LONGMONT — Three months after AstraZeneca PLC announced that it would close its plants in Boulder and Longmont, a Swiss biologics company has announced plans to purchase the Longmont facility.

AveXis, a Novartis company, has signed an agreement to purchase an advanced biologics therapy manufacturing campus in Longmont.” That campus is AstraZeneca’s former facility at 4000 Nelson Road, which includes six buildings and encompasses 692,000 square feet.

“AveXis plans to offer positions to all approximately 150 employees previously employed at the site, and to announce further expansion of new jobs in the near term,” according to the release. Andrew Knudten, senior vice president, global strategic operations for AveXis, told BizWest that one of those people will be Sally Dyer, current general manager of the Longmont AstraZeneca plant. She will transition to the same role with AveXis, he said.

“We’re very encouraged by the people who have said they are willing to join AveXis. We’re looking forward to work with the state of Colorado and the economic development people to understand how we might continue to grow,” he said. “I can’t get into the details about the eventual total headcount; we need to let the dust settle and have conversations with the state of Colorado,” he said. “One hundred fifty will be the minimum.”

The company has announced the jobs to be offered will be high-tech biologics manufacturing positions.

The new AveXis employees are expected to be in place by the end of 2019.

“This is good news, especially considering the loss of jobs from AstraZeneca,” said Longmont Economic Development Partnership president Jessica Erickson. “Being able to reemploy those individuals in a quick manner is the best-case scenario.”

The Longmont facility will enable AveXis to expand its production capacity as it prepares to launch Zolgensma, an investigational gene therapy awaiting global regulatory approvals for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy Type 1 and for future gene-therapy treatments in development, the company said.

The Nelson Road campus was underutilized under AstraZeneca’s ownership, Erickson said. AstraZeneca, which bought the operation from Amgen in October 2016, used the facility mainly for warehouse purposes rather than manufacturing.

“The site was never really activated; it has sat nearly vacant since Amgen left,” Erickson said.

The hope is that AveXis will reinvigorate the campus.

Knudten said AveXis heard about the AstraZeneca closure as it happened and immediately saw an opportunity to capture a trained workforce and an existing plant set up for drug manufacturing. While the company took ownership of some equipment in the property sale, it will install other equipment specific to its processes. That will take until late this year or early next, he said.

AveXis currently operates a manufacturing facility in Illinois, is building a facility in North Carolina scheduled to be operational in 2020 and is expanding its product-development capacity at its San Diego facility. “Each plant is critical to the network,” Knudten said. “We have a platform manufacturing process and are able to rapidly deploy across multiple sites. It gives us a competitive advantage. We always have inventory in multiple locations,” he said.

The Longmont campus includes space for biologic drug manufacturing, offices, laboratories, warehousing and utilities. Initial startup activities in Longmont will include preparing the facility for scaling, manufacturing and testing of gene therapies and hiring staff, the company said.

“Our Longmont, Colorado, campus, along with our existing manufacturing sites in Illinois, California and North Carolina, will play a crucial role in helping us achieve the future manufacturing capacity required to meet the global patient need for novel gene therapies,” Knudten said. “We have built a team with exceptional depth of experience, unified by a common mission: to positively impact the lives of patients and families devastated by rare and life-threatening neurological genetic diseases. We are eager to add the talented team in Longmont to AveXis, and we hope that they will choose to join us as we build world-leading manufacturing capabilities in gene therapy.”

Knudten also said the company is eager to work with the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines and other schools in the region. “We’re excited about the young talent coming out of universities and the great experienced talent in that area,” he said.

AveXis president Dave Lennon, added, “AveXis’ success requires not just medical breakthroughs, but innovations in R&D and manufacturing. With the opening of our fourth location in the U.S., we will create more than 1,000 high-tech biologics manufacturing jobs by the end of 2019. AveXis has now established leading technical manufacturing capabilities with the capacity to deliver our robust pipeline, as well as the flexibility to enter into multiple external partnerships as the development and manufacturing partner of choice in gene therapy.”

Knudten clarified that the 1,000 jobs number is across the AveXis U.S. network.

AveXis said that the Longmont facility would “become the largest of its four facilities involved in the manufacturing of gene therapies for the treatment of rare disease including spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).”

“We want to have a long presence in the area,” Knudten said. “We want to kick things off the right way in the community and are looking forward to moving into a beautiful campus.”

AstraZeneca purchased the facility in 2016 for $64.5 million from Amgen. That followed on the heels of its purchase of Amgen’s Boulder facility in September 2015 for $14.6 million.

This report has been updated to reflect confirmation that AveXis will take over the former AstraZeneca facility and to add comments from company officers.

LONGMONT — Three months after AstraZeneca PLC announced that it would close its plants in Boulder and Longmont, a Swiss biologics company has announced plans to purchase the Longmont facility.

AveXis, a Novartis company, has signed an agreement to purchase an advanced biologics therapy manufacturing campus in Longmont.” That campus is AstraZeneca’s former facility at 4000 Nelson Road, which includes six buildings and encompasses 692,000 square feet.

“AveXis plans to offer positions to all approximately 150 employees previously employed at the site, and to announce further expansion of new jobs in the near term,” according to the release. Andrew Knudten, senior vice president, global strategic operations for AveXis, told BizWest that one of those people will be Sally Dyer, current general manager of the Longmont AstraZeneca plant. She will transition to the same role with AveXis, he said.

“We’re very encouraged by the people who have said they are willing to join AveXis. We’re looking forward to work with the state of Colorado and the economic development people to understand how we might continue to grow,” he said. “I can’t get into the details about the eventual total headcount; we need to let the dust settle and have conversations with the state of Colorado,” he said. “One hundred fifty will be the minimum.”

The company has announced the jobs to be offered will be high-tech biologics manufacturing positions.

The new AveXis employees are expected to be in place by the end of 2019.

“This is good news, especially considering the loss of jobs…