Why Nexelis is ‘changing the R&D paradigm in vaccines’

Benoit Bouche, President and CEO, Nexelis, told Lu Rahman about the company’s recent acquisition and what it means for the business and the vaccine sector.

Nexelis is a leading provider of assay development and advanced laboratory testing services in the infectious diseases, metabolic diseases, and oncology fields. The company – which Benoit Bouche, President and CEO, describes as having “unrivaled expertise in immunology”, has five operating sites in North America and Europe, and a translational offer of services covering the needs of the pharmaceutical industry from the lead selection stage to late clinical stage.

“Our versatile team of scientists, working with our state-of-the-art technology platforms, were instrumental in the development, qualification, validation, and large-scale sample testing of assays that supported the US FDA filing of almost 100 new molecular entities, including blockbuster vaccines and biologics, anti-viral drugs, immunotherapy, gene, and cell therapy products,” he says.

The company recently announced a five-year strategic agreement for the acquisition of GSK Vaccines GCLP-certified clinical bioanalytical lab in Marburg, Germany. The Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) team in Marburg, consisting of around 80 scientists and analysts, will be transferred to Nexelis, while the CLS team in Marburg will continue to keep a strong relationship with GSK and support the development of future GSK vaccine candidates through the five-year strategic collaborative agreement.

The transaction with GSK will be effective at the end of January 2021. Nexelis intends to quickly expand the Marburg site, initiating collaborations with other vaccine development companies as well as with the company’s other North American and European sites.

Nexelis expects to add new clinical testing platforms in Marburg that will be fully bridged with Laval platforms, develop synergies with its early development stage ImmunXperts branch in Belgium and leverage existing talents in fields such as biostatistics to form a broad-based, end-to-end service offering in bacteriology, virology, and oncology.

“This agreement enables Nexelis to develop a global footprint, increase Nexelis’ capacity in the vaccines field which is currently in high demand, and deepen our scientific expertise.

“Nexelis is the leading provider of bioanalytical services in the vaccines field and demand for these services has skyrocketed since 2020. Laval, a Nexelis subsidiary based in Quebec, having almost doubled its size in one year is not far from being at full capacity. Although we are in discussions with the Canadian authorities to double again the size of our Laval site in next three years, this might even not be enough to answer the global demand. Hence the Marburg acquisition is an opportunity for us to grow our capacity to meet the global demand, access a second talent pool, and have the capabilities expected by our customers,” reveals Bouche.

He adds that Nexelis’ strategy is to base its very rapid growth on alliances and close partnerships with multinational companies, innovative biotechnology companies, and prestigious governmental or non-governmental organisations.

“Those partners all expect to collaborate with companies with a global footprint,” he says.

Opportunities ahead

As an expert in his field, Bouche is aware of the market opportunities ahead: “Outside of the business impact of COVID and the explosion of therapeutic vaccines targeting auto-immune and oncologic diseases, the vaccines market currently has a size of approximately $50 billion. It also experiences a compound annual growth rate exceeding 10%, meaning that the vaccines market will more than double in the ten years to come.

He says those prospects are based in developed countries on technical improvements opening new vaccination fields (see the mRNA vaccine technologies used by Moderna and BioNtech in the COVID field) and an increasing capacity to build multivalent vaccines (one single shot protecting against a series of pathologies).

“The emergence of a company like Nexelis with a global footprint is changing the R&D paradigm in vaccines – an area that used to have little or no outsourcing initiative. We see the advanced bioanalytical testing segment multiplying its size in a ten year period of time,” he adds.

Image credit: Ms. Frédérique Ménard Aubin

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