Rare Daily Staff

AveXis, the gene therapy company acquired by Novartis, is planning a $60 million expansion to its manufacturing center in Durham County, North Carolina, according to an announcement from the state’s Governor Roy Cooper.

The state will reimburse up to $1.5 million to the company for the expansion, which is expected to create 200 jobs. The new center was first announced in May of last year. 

“North Carolina’s expertise in the life sciences continues to lead the nation,” said Governor Cooper. “Pioneering companies like AveXis keep our state at the forefront of promising new approaches like gene therapy, which opens up new ways for us to tackle tough diseases.”

AveXis’ initial product candidate, AVXS-101, now known as Zolgesnma, is an experimental gene therapy for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 1. Zolgesnma is designed to address the genetic root cause of SMA Type 1, a deadly neuromuscular disease with limited treatment options. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has awarded the gene therapy Breakthrough Therapy designation and has been granted Priority Review with regulatory action anticipated in May 2019.  

“Our primary focus is to bring gene therapies to patients suffering from devastating rare neurological genetic diseases, such as SMA, genetic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Rett syndrome,” said Andy Stober, senior vice president of technical operations and chief technical officer of AveXis. “Continued investment in our infrastructure in North Carolina will allow us to manufacture multiple gene therapies simultaneously, helping us reach more patients, faster.”

AveXis will create a variety of positions in Durham County, including scientists, engineers, analysts, manufacturing and operations personnel. Salaries for the new positions will average $72,952, which is higher than the current Durham County average wage of $68,731.

AveXis’ expansion in Durham County will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee. Over the course of the 12-year term of this grant. State payments only occur following performance verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets.  

AveXis must also remain in full compliance with its May 2018 grant in order to receive payments under the new grant.

Photo: Andy Stober, senior vice president of technical operations and chief technical officer of AveXis