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Virus stalls Genzyme plant

Genzyme of Cambridge, Massachusetts, faces millions in lost revenue from its top-selling specialty drugs Cerezyme and Fabrazyme as result of a viral contamination at its Allston, Massachusetts plant. The company has announced that it will temporarily shut down the facility owing to a bioreactor contamination with Vesivirus 2117, which does not cause human infections, but impairs growth of the biologics-producing Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. It reportedly originated from tainted nutrient medium and belongs to the same strain that caused delays at the Allston site and its European biologics plant in Belgium last year. Genzyme anticipates supply constraints of Cerezyme (imiglucerase), a treatment for Gaucher disease, and Fabrazyme (agalsidase beta), used to treat Fabry disease, while the facility shuts down for 6 to 8 weeks to allow decontamination. Although Genzyme also produces Myozyme (alglucosidase alpha) at the plant, no runs were scheduled during the presumed period of shutdown so supplies of that drug will not be affected. With sales of $1.2 billion for Cerezyme and $494 million for Fabryzyme in 2008, analysts estimate the manufacturing crisis will result in $100–300 million in lost sales. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has contacted rival manufacturers Shire of Basingstoke, UK, and Carmiel, Israel–based Protalix, who have enzyme replacement therapies for Gaucher disease in clinical trials, to file treatment protocols, which would allow physicians to use their drugs ahead of approval. The situation could also boost sales of Allschwil-based Actelion's Zavesca (miglustat).


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Bethencourt, V. Virus stalls Genzyme plant. Nat Biotechnol 27, 681 (2009).

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