Snehal Patel, Global Head of Cell Therapy Manufacturing at Bristol Myers Squibb, stand outside the facility on Monday in Bothell. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Snehal Patel, Global Head of Cell Therapy Manufacturing at Bristol Myers Squibb, stand outside the facility on Monday in Bothell. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Cancer patients nationwide send their blood cells to Bothell

At a Bristol Myers Squibb lab, the cells are altered and returned to patients fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

BOTHELL — It might look like an ordinary manufacturing center from the parking lot, but this “factory” is busy producing cancer-fighting cells.

A Bristol Myers Squibb “therapy manufacturing center” in Bothell is ramping up production of a new blood-cancer treatment after it received federal approval earlier this year.

On Feb. 5, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Breyanzi, a cell-based genetic therapy, for commercial use. A one-time infusion, it treats patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when at least two treatments haven’t worked or have stopped working.

Breyanzi involves re-engineering and revving up a patient’s own immune cells to detect, attack and kill cancer cells.

The 68,000-square-foot Bothell site is equipped to modify T-cells, said Snehal Patel, vice president and global head of cell therapy manufacturing.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. The disorder weakens the immune system and its ability to fight infection. In the U.S., it accounts for about 4% of all cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 82,000 people this year will be diagnosed with the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The personalized therapy begins at one of 40 treatment centers, where a patient’s T-cells, a type of white blood cell, are collected.

The cells are then carefully preserved and shipped to the Bothell site, which serves patients throughout the U.S., Patel said.

At the facility, the cells are genetically altered to locate and destroy cancer cells.

A viral vector — a virus that’s been modified so that it can’t replicate — is used to deliver genetic material to the T-cell. Once it reaches the target, it makes changes to the cell, enabling it to identify and destroy cancer cells. A few weeks later, the enhanced T-cells are returned to the patient in the form of a one-time infusion. Patients are then monitored for several weeks, staying close to the treatment center.

“Breyanzi has deep Pacific Northwest roots from being developed by local scientific teams,” said Ann Lee, senior vice president and head of cell therapy development and operations at Bristol Myers.

Juno Therapeutics, a Bothell biotech firm, began the process in 2013, collaborating with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Juno was purchased by Celgene Corp in 2018 for $9 billion. A year later, Bristol Myers Squibb acquired Celgene in a $74 billion deal.

The Bristol Meyers Squibb manufacturing center and a separate Canyon Park Business Park location currently employ about 550 people, but the company plans to expand its footprint with the addition of a 44,000-square-foot business center to support employees and enable further manufacturing expansion.

“Travis Lynn and Rian Zeigler — two of our guys — are helping design the new business center,” said Patel, describing it as a “significant investment.”

“We’re proud to invest in the Bothell area,” Patel said “We have employees from Everett, Mill Creek, Monroe and Snohomish. We’ve also recently hired some Boeing folks, giving them the chance to enter the health care space.”

Bristol Myers recently partnered with Shoreline Community College to develop a biotech certification program that prepares students for entry-level laboratory work, Patel said.

Breyanzi is the first of two Bristol Myers cell therapy treatments to receive FDA approval this year for commercial distribution.

In March, the FDA approved Abecma for multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that blocks bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells. The disorder can result in low blood counts that weaken the immune system and damage the bones and kidneys.

Abecma was developed by Celgene and a Boston-based biotech, bluebird bio. It will be produced at a Bristol Myers cell therapy manufacturing site in New Jersey.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Keyport ship docked at Lake Union in Seattle in June 2018. The ship spends most of the year in Alaska harvesting Golden King crab in the Bering Sea. During the summer it ties up for maintenance and repairs at Lake Union. (Keyport LLC)
In crabbers’ turbulent moment, Edmonds seafood processor ‘saved our season’

When a processing plant in Alaska closed, Edmonds-based business Keyport stepped up to solve a “no-win situation.”

Angela Harris, Executive Director of the Port of Edmonds, stands at the port’s marina on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Leadership, love for the Port of Edmonds got exec the job

Shoring up an aging seawall is the first order of business for Angela Harris, the first woman to lead the Edmonds port.

The Cascade Warbirds fly over Naval Station Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Bothell High School senior awarded $2,500 to keep on flying

Cascade Warbirds scholarship helps students 16-21 continue flight training and earn a private pilot’s certificate.

Rachel Gardner, the owner of Musicology Co., a new music boutique record store on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. Musicology Co. will open in February, selling used and new vinyl, CDs and other music-related merchandise. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Edmonds record shop intends to be a ‘destination for every musician’

Rachel Gardner opened Musicology Co. this month, filling a record store gap in Edmonds.

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Burst pipe permanently closes downtown Everett toy store

After a pipe flooded the store, MyMyToystore in downtown Everett closed. Owner Tom Harrison is already on to his next venture.

Melrose and Vine Collective owner Kara Langus in her vintage collection room at her store on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New and vintage women’s boutique aims to dazzle in downtown Everett

Add some sparkle to your wardrobe: Melrose and Vine Collective opened inside a former bank building on Pacific Avenue.

Garry Clark, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
CEO steps down at Economic Alliance Snohomish County

Garry Clark, who has led the nonprofit chamber of commerce for three years, is leaving to “seek new opportunities.”

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Ex-Seagen CEO to return to Bothell to lead newly relocated biotech firm

Clay Siegall, who resigned from Seagen over allegations of domestic abuse, is now CEO of cancer therapy developer Immunome.

Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington. Photographed in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
‘Shocked and heartbroken’: Woodinville garden store Molbak’s to close

After 67 years, Molbak’s Home + Garden, a mainstay just across the county line, will cease operations early next year.

Good Cheer’s two thrift stores are great places to find Christmas decorations and other knick-knacks. (File photo by David Welton)
A guide to gift buying on Whidbey Island

Consider these unique gift idea suggestions from the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey News-Times

Senior Hailey Jardine uses the new heat press for DECA to make school apparel at Snohomish High School in Snohomish, Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.  DECA is a national nonprofit for students interested in business. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Hot off the press! Snohomish High School students create custom swag

New heat presses allow teens to make T-shirts, hoodies and gear at the school’s merch store, Panther Pause — with the copyright.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.