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CAR-T cell therapy is capturing the imagination of people around the globe. Through this technology, a person’s own blood cells are reprogrammed to fight cancer cells in a targeted manner. This fascinating field is the specialty of Legend Biotech. The US-based company developed a promising cell therapy candidate and entered into an exclusive licensing and collaboration agreement with Janssen Biotech. The goal: to develop and commercialize the product, known as ciltacabtagene autoleucel or cilta-cel. And Flanders’ life sciences & health ecosystem will play a crucial part in this ambition. 

A first on Flanders' and European soil

At Tech Lane Ghent Science Park in Flanders, Legend Biotech and Janssen are building a brand-new cell therapy production facility, scheduled to be operational by 2023. At the science park, Legend Biotech is joining a vibrant ecosystem of international corporate R&D centers, public research institutes and high-tech growth enterprises in Flanders. It’s Legend Biotech’s first presence in continental Europe. “With this 26,000-m2 hub, we are bringing a significant manufacturing capacity into Flanders’ ecosystem,” says Birk Vanderweeën, General Manager Europe at Legend Biotech. “This is quite a unique scale within cell therapy.”

Through our partnership with Janssen, we have not only gained access to Flanders' incredible talent pool; we have also become part of a strong biopharma ecosystem. We couldn't be more thrilled. We believe that our company fits perfectly within Flanders' prominent life sciences community.

Birk Vanderweeën
General Manager Europe at Legend Biotech

Driven by talent

Legend Biotech employs over 1,000 people in the US, China, Belgium and Ireland, where its European HQ is based. Through the investment in Flanders, the fast-growing company expects to hire a significant number of employees over the next few years. 

The Ghent biotech cluster not only gives us access to strong local talent. It also offers the ability to invest in our workforce thanks to the solid training support we've received from the government of Flanders.

Liz Gosen
Senior VP of Technical Operations at Legend Biotech

The importance of highly educated talent cannot be underestimated for a company like Legend Biotech. “Our new Ghent hub focuses on the production of cell therapies, which are tailored to individual patients,” says Liz Gosen, Senior VP of Technical Operations. “CAR-T is an exciting and sophisticated technology that requires highly skilled and trained people to develop and manufacture.”

Top of the charts

As Legend Biotech was deciding where to invest, quite a few locations in different countries were in the running. But Flanders stood out

Flanders is known to be a center of excellence in life sciences. Add to that its ideal geographical location in the heart of Europe, its proximity to Brussels Airport and strong governmental support, and it's clear that Flanders ticks all the right boxes.

Liz Gosen
Senior VP of Technical Operations at Legend Biotech

Still, setting up a business in a new market can be quite an effort. Liz Gosen: “On that note, we are extremely grateful for the help and advice we received from Flanders Investment & Trade, which guided us toward the right people and partnerships.”

The best is yet to come

The investment project in Flanders marks only the beginning of Legend Biotech’s ambitions. “Our Ghent site is our first manufacturing facility in continental Europe, and it will play a crucial role in our mission to develop and deliver innovative cell therapies to patients globally,” Liz Gosen confirms. “Legend Biotech has over ten programs in the pipeline. The work we do today, if successful, will lay the foundation for us to provide different options across Europe in the years to come.” 

It is our ambition to continue growing our manufacturing presence in Europe, with Flanders as our home base.

Liz Gosen
Senior VP of Technical Operations at Legend Biotech

Trophy prestige

While still being under construction, Legend Biotech’s cell therapy production in Ghent earned it the 2022 Newcomer of the Year Trophy, presented by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT).

The fact that a biotech pioneer like Legend Biotech sets up its first-ever European production site in Flanders is an ode to our life sciences & health ecosystem.

Kristof Lowyck
Deputy Director Inward Investment CAN at FIT

“Our solid talent pool, strategic location and logistics excellence caught the eye of Legend Biotech, putting Flanders ahead of other locations in Europe that also wanted to convince Legend Biotech of their strengths”, says Kristof Lowyck, Deputy Director Inward Investment CAN at FIT. “In addition, Legend Biotech only strengthens the purview of Flanders’ ecosystem by fostering local talent. It’s a win-win situation!” 

Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade

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