While some sectors are weathering crippling economic effects from the pandemic, the state’s life sciences industry is flourishing, and recently inked two major business deals for central Indiana. Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA), a subsidiary of France-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis, is investing $72 million to build a production facility at the Purdue Research Park of Indianapolis. Nearby in Fishers, contract development and manufacturing startup INCOG BioPharma Services will open a $60 million facility in 2022 to churn out injectable medications.

AAA is a significant piece of Novartis’ oncology portfolio and focuses on nuclear medicine, which uses radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals. A critical Indiana business connection led AAA to choose Indianapolis; Novartis AG acquired West Lafayette-based Endocyte for $2.1 billion in 2018—the largest-ever acquisition of an Indiana life sciences company. Endocyte’s experimental radioligand therapy targets prostate cancer and is based on technology discovered by Dr. Philip Low at Purdue University.

AAA leaders say Endocyte “opened our eyes” to the Indianapolis area when selecting a location for its second U.S. manufacturing facility. The plant will manufacture radioligand therapies, which use radioactive isotopes to deliver radiation directly to cancer cells, while having minimal effect on healthy cells.

The personalized medicine includes AAA’s first targeted radioligand therapy, LUTATHERA, which generated $336 million in sales during first nine months of 2020. It will be produced at the new 50,000-square-foot facility, as well as future products. The location near Indianapolis International Airport is crucial; once manufactured, the radioactive products must get to the patient within three days.

“For an injectable radioligand like LUTATHERA, it only has a 72-hour life from the time we manufacture it until it expires,” says AAA USA General Manager Mike Rossi. “So we basically have three days or less from manufacture to be able to inject that into a patient. It was very important for us to locate somewhere with good ground and air distribution. And having the FedEx hub, as well as major ground distribution hubs in Indiana, allows us to manufacture, ship, and receive products and treat patients anywhere in North America within those 72 hours.”

Rossi characterizes the $72 million as “our starting investment” and notes AAA can expand to adjacent land. Rossi says the facility is expected to create 50 jobs “and upwards from there,” as it takes advantage of the Purdue pipeline; the university is home to one of only a few nuclear pharmacy programs in the country.

While the AAA investment is linked to a global pharmaceutical corporation, the spirit of entrepreneurship is driving INCOG BioPharma’s new $60 million manufacturing facility and global headquarters in Fishers. The contract development and manufacturing startup will specialize in injectable drug products and has made “significant investments to be able to support the biologics market,” says INCOG BioPharma Founder and Chief Executive Officer Cory Lewis. Small molecule drugs and vaccines will round out its production capabilities.

Founded in June, the startup’s business model was already well established when the pandemic gripped the nation, but Lewis says the crisis only fanned the flame for INCOG BioPharma.

“It accelerated the investment into the business because there’s a supply and demand imbalance. Plus, there are ongoing discussions about America needing to bring back some manufacturing to the U.S.,” says Lewis. “With a market that was already growing seven to 10% annually, we’re well poised to capture some of this new demand that’s in the system. You throw in COVID-19 and the idea of possible on-shoring, and there’s going to be an even [greater] need for injectable services over the next three to five years given those two components.”

The facility is expected to create up to 150 jobs by the end of 2024. Together, Lewis and co-founder Tedd Green bring decades of experience from Hoosier powerhouses including Baxter, Cook Pharmica, Catalent, and Eli Lilly and Co.

“This is a business segment that’s needed—improving quality of life, whether it be for you, your family member or the population as it relates to COVID-19,” says Lewis. “I’m excited about the opportunity to show up to work every day knowing that we’re going to make a difference in people’s lives because of the products we’re manufacturing.”

 

Lewis says the new facility will also likely have the capacity to help manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.

Rossi says advances in nuclear medicine allow treatment to focus on individual cancer cells, as opposed to very general treatments like chemotherapy.

Purdue is home to one of the few nuclear pharmacy programs in the country, and Rossi says that was “very big” in its decision to open the facility in Indianapolis.