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Biotech firm Rubius buys former Alexion factory in Smithfield

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) - The manufacturing facility vacated last fall by Alexion Pharmaceuticals is getting a new owner.

Rubius Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based biotech firm that just made a well-received debut on the Nasdaq stock market, announced Wednesday it has signed a deal to purchase the 135,000-square-foot factory from Alexion.

Terms of the sale, expected to close by Sept. 30, were not disclosed.

Founded in 2013, Rubius is developing treatments for cancer and other diseases using a new technology it calls Red Cell Therapeutics. The company raised $241 million last week in an initial public offering, which the Boston Business Journal reported was the biggest-ever IPO by a Massachusetts biotech company.

“The acquisition of the Rhode Island manufacturing facility is a critical step toward making the promise of Red Cell Therapeutics a reality,” Rubius CEO Dr. Pablo Cagnoni said in a statement. “We believe that by owning our manufacturing capabilities and controlling our supply chain we will be prepared to scale up manufacturing of clinical and potentially commercial supply of our novel therapies.”

Alexion announced last September it would vacate the Smithfield facility - originally built with state backing in 1992 for Alpha-Beta Technology, a company that later faltered - amid a federal investigation and turmoil in its upper executive ranks. The move put about 250 people out of work. It came just 15 months after the company held a ground-breaking ceremony for a $200 million expansion.

Rubius said it plans to invest up to $155 million in the Smithfield plant over five years, including up to $95 million through 2020, and will hire about 150 employees there “pending the progression of its planned, staged investments.” The first round of renovations is expected to be done in two years.

Last month, the R.I. Commerce Corporation approved up to $9.35 million in tax incentives for Rubius over 10 years to bring the company to Rhode Island. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo called the company’s decision “great news for our state.”

Cagnoni said the company is looking to build “a sustainable high-performing team from the talent pool in the Providence region that will allow us to work towards bringing important new medicines to patients.”

Rubius said the new facility will allow it to “produce large quantities of Red Cell Therapeutic product candidates and lentiviral vectors needed to encode biotherapeutic proteins inside or on the surface of each Red Cell Therapeutic.”

“The facility will be customized to contain multiple manufacturing suites, which will enable Rubius to conduct its manufacturing operations in a cGMP compliant manner for clinical supply and, if approved, for the commercial supply of RCT product candidates,” the company said.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook


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