How Happy Valley Won a Biotech Facility Over “Cellicon” Valley

11/22/2021

Innovation Park at Penn State will welcome BioMagnetic Solutions to 310 Innovation Boulevard as the company invests in a multi-million dollar cGMP-grade production facility. The announcement follows BioMagnetic Solutions’ January 2021 acquisition by Gamma Biosciences, a global life sciences company serving the advanced therapy market. 

BioMagnetic Solutions is a next-generation cell selection and bioseparation technology company that develops advanced ferrofluid-based immunomagnetic cell selection systems. The late Dr. Paul Liberti and Ted Liberti founded the company in Penn State incubator space in 2011 to cultivate cutting-edge ferrofluid technology that could revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. 

After acquisition, Gamma Biosciences initially planned to move BioMagnetic Solutions to Philadelphia, which has been dubbed “Cellicon Valley.” But Gamma Biosciences CTO Phil Vanek says, as the team discussed the world-class resources needed to take BioMagnetic Solutions ferrofluids into the global market, a “bulb went off.”  

“When we connected with the Innovation Park and the Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology teams at Penn State, we knew we had found the right partner. Here, we have everything we need to industrialize,” he says. “We can leverage Penn State’s world-leading expertise in supply chain management, materials and analytical sciences to innovate on the ferrofluid platform. It was a compelling value prospect to put the facility in Innovation Park and became the obvious choice for us.”

BioMagnetic Solutions CBO and co-founder Ted Liberti says he’s excited to continue to build in Happy Valley, and see the work that was started here come to fruition: “If we look forward to the next few years, we are going to see premier cell and gene therapy technologies coming from this area. We have great talent here, and we get to be a part of that. It’s good to be here building on the hard, hard work that we’ve already done.”

“When we connected with the Innovation Park and the Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology teams at Penn State, we knew we had found the right partner. Here, we have everything we need to industrialize,” he says. “We can leverage Penn State’s world-leading expertise in supply chain management, materials and analytical sciences to innovate on the ferrofluid platform. It was a compelling value prospect to put the facility in Innovation Park and became the obvious choice for us.”

The site at Innovation Park is expected to be fully operational by mid-2022 and will feature more than 13,000 square feet of purpose-built office, laboratory and cGMP manufacturing space. The world-class facility will cement Penn State’s reputation as a destination for science and technology, specifically its emerging expertise in biotech. 

Phil Vanek says the university’s and the region’s depth in Industry 4.0 sectors, including materials, manufacturing, supply chain and bioprocessing, will make the area a valuable resource for other advanced therapy technology companies in Gamma Biosciences’ portfolio.

“Penn State and Innovation Park have innovative technology that’s transformative to the future of manufacturing,” Vanek says. “Then there’s the wraparound of a world-class facility, materials science and the business school. When we decided to stay put in State College, we decided to lean in a little bit. If we are going to be here, what else can we do? We’d like to make this a future marquee to reinforce bioprocessing and advanced therapies for the future of healthcare.” 

Innovation Park Director Dan Leri says, as a former incubator company, BioMagnetic Solutions is coming full circle: “The investment from the company and Gamma Biosciences really speaks to the alignment of their business interests with Penn State’s capabilities and with the potential for workforce development and technical and operational collaboration between faculty and the BioMagnetics Solutions’ team.”

“Penn State and Innovation Park have innovative technology that’s transformative to the future of manufacturing,” Vanek says. “Then there’s the wraparound of a world-class facility, materials science and the business school. When we decided to stay put in State College, we decided to lean in a little bit. If we are going to be here, what else can we do? We’d like to make this a future marquee to reinforce bioprocessing and advanced therapies for the future of healthcare.”

“We are inspired to carry forward the legacy of BioMagnetic Solutions to help manufacturers overcome the challenges in scale and security of supply that are hindering true progress,” Ted Liberti added. “We have demonstrated that this technology is able to support process development and manufacturing efforts for new cell and gene-based medicines at scale, and the next step is working with developers to deliver security and reliability for their processes.”

The state-of-the-art facility will house up to 30 technical, operational and commercial personnel to support the launch of both research use and clinical versions of the BioMagnetic Solutions Cell Separation platform. The product launch is expected in Q1 of 2022.

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