Celgene's new LEED-certified facility in San Diego, CA.
Celgene’s new LEED-certified facility in San Diego, CA.  Photo credit:  Bruce Heimbach

With 5000 employees in more than 50 countries, Celgene is a major biotech player.  Celgene is building an extensive network of partnerships with innovative companies as well as growing by acquisition.  One of these companies, Abraxis Bioscience, which it acquired in 2010, developed a new cancer treatment, Abraxane.  The drug was approved by the FDA for late-stage pancreatic cancer treatment in September of this year.

BioSurplus’ VP Technology Services Anggie Becorest,  pancreatic cancer survivor and an advocate for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (an organization that provides comprehensive support for pancreatic cancer patients), appreciates Celgene’s commitment towards improving and saving patient lives.

Read about Anggie and Purple Stride on the BioSurplus blog here.

Celgene is also an important member of the San Diego biotech community:  its brand new state-of-the-art facility in La Jolla employs 250, and all early stage research and development for the company’s drug pipeline is conducted there.

Recently, the BioSurplus service group assisted Celgene with a move of its high-end lab equipment into a new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) GOLD-certified facility in San Diego.  Tim Rogers, BioSurplus’ service manager, spoke about the move and the level of detail needed to pack up, transport and reassemble sophisticated lab equipment such as HPLCs and mass specs.

 

Celgene – the Company

Celgene’s primary focus is on drug discovery for cancer and immune-inflammatory diseases.  The company is well known for having developed the drug Thalomid, turning a derivative of the dangerous compound Thalidomide into a safe and effective cancer treatment.

Among Celgene’s other leading products are Revlimid (myeloma), Vidaza (myelomonocytic leukemia), Istodax (lymphoma), Pomalyst (myeloma) and the above-mentioned Abraxane.

In a recent Xconomy article, Luke Timmerman wrote that while not usually considered a “hothouse of innovation, Celgene has been developing the best network of partnerships with innovators in the industry.”  Some of the largest biotech IPOs of 2013 were companies that struck deals with Celgene before going public, including Epizyme, Agios Pharmaceuticals and Bluebird Bio.

Timmerman states that most of these partnership deals take place when the smaller company has a product that’s still in preclinical testing.  Although the risk can be high for Celgene, these companies are “leaders in epigenic-based drug development, cancer metabolism, antibody drugs, gene therapy, immunotherapy, and regenerative medicine” – if their products make it through the FDA approval process, Celgene will “win big.”

 

Abraxane

Patrick Soon-Shiong, inventor of Abraxane.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, inventor of Abraxane.

Abraxane and its inventor, Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder of Abraxis Bioscience, are a case in point.  The drug wraps the already existing cancer drug Taxol in the protein albumin.  In recent clinical trials, patients treated with a combination of Abraxane and the drug gemcitabine were shown to live longer than those treated with gemcitabine alone.  The other existing treatment for late-stage pancreatic cancer, Folfirinox, is toxic and difficult for patients to take.

Abraxane was approved by the FDA for treatment of metastatic breast cancer in 2005.  Celgene acquired Abraxis in 2010 from Soon-Shiong for $2.9 billion, and Abraxane was subsequently approved for treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer in September of this year.

Sales of Abraxane totaled $155 million in the second quarter of 2013, up 41% from the year before.  With the recent FDA approval, sales of the drug will go up even further.

 

The Move

Environmental sustainability is one of Celgene’s corporate mandates.  The company has implemented projects at many of their facilities to reduce their environmental footprint and recently moved into a new LEED GOLD-certified building in San Diego.

Designed by Dowler Gruman Architects and constructed by BNBuilders, the building was finished ahead of schedule in January, 2013.  The new facility includes labs with 80 fume hoods, cold rooms, conference rooms and a data center.

Earlier this year, BioSurplus was brought in to help Celgene move high-end equipment from its previous location into the new labs.

Tim Rogers, BioSurplus’ Boston service manager, was one of five BioSurplus engineers to work on the project.  Around 15 HPLCs, including Agilent 1100s and Shimadzu Prominence models, two mass specs and two GCs were seamlessly transferred from “one bench to another.”

According to Tim this is an extremely detail-oriented process:  all parts must be labeled extensively for later reassembly; computers must be disconnected from their instruments and networks, put back together, and connected in perfect working order.

In other words, the scientist walks away from the bench one day with a functioning piece of equipment, and back to the new lab and bench with the same functioning equipment.  This is a feat that is much more complicated to achieve than it might seem at first glance.

Transport of the equipment was undertaken by frequent BioSurplus partner Corovan.  Tim said they did an amazing job, and that the process went smoothly for all.

BioSurplus is proud to have been chosen by Celgene to handle their valuable lab instruments.  We congratulate them on their new facility and wish them much luck and growth in the San Diego area and beyond.

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