A young, growing biotechnology company is expanding its presence again in Cleveland. Abeona Therapeutics LLC is adding to its production facilities by leasing and modifying 12,000 square feet at the MidTown Tech Park Building No. 1, 6700 Euclid Ave.
That brings the publicly traded company’s (Nasdaq: ABEO) Cleveland presence to 38,000 square feet. It currently has 65 employees in Cleveland — more than triple the employment the firm had here just three years ago. Abeona is a clinical stage company developing gene therapy and plasma-based therapies for severe and life-threatening rare genetic diseases.
Abeona’s local presence began in the MidTown Tech Park Building No. 3, 6555 Carnegie Ave., which is only about 150 feet away from where Abeona soon will be expanding. An affiliate of Geis Companies which developed and manages the entire MidTown Tech Park submitted permit applications to the city last week for the modification of Building No. 1. For reference, Building No. 2 in the MidTown Tech Park is at 7000 Euclid.
“This planned expansion would support the advancement of our clinical programs and commercial manufacturing of our gene and cell therapies we’re developing for the treatment of serious rare diseases,” said Scott Santiamo, Abeona’s director of corporate communications.
Conrad Geis, director and managing partner of Geis Companies, was unable to return a message seeking comment prior to publication of this article.
In May 2018, Abeona opened the 6,000-square-foot Elisa Linton Center for Rare Disease Therapies at 6555 Carnegie, built in 1929. It is named for Elisa Linton, a woman born with Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes fatal brain damage. The facility was expanded by 20,000 square feet in the same building in 2019.
This latest expansion comes only several months after Abeona significantly scaled back its operations here as a precaution, from March to June, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the USA. But Abeona had to get back to work as it has several treatments in clinical trials. The most advanced of these is a Phase 3 VIITAL study of EB-101, an investigational gene-corrected cell therapy for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), Santiamo said.
RDEB is a rare connective tissue disorder characterized by severe skin wounds that cause pain and can lead to systemic complications impacting the length and quality of life. People with RDEB have a defect in the COL7A1 gene, leaving them unable to produce functioning type VII collagen, which is necessary to anchor the dermal and epidermal layers of the skin. There is currently no approved treatment for RDEB. Abeona’s Cleveland team is manufacturing EB-101 for the study.
|View of MidTown Tech Park Building No. 3 as seen from Carnegie
Avenue. Schaffer Partners Inc., 6545 Carnegie, is at left (Google).
Also, Santiamo said Abeona is enrolling three Phase 1/2 studies across the firm’s single-dose gene therapy clinical programs for Sanfilippo syndrome types A and B (MPS IIIA and MPS IIIB).
Children with MPS IIIA and IIIB suffer from progressive language and cognitive decline and behavioral abnormalities. MPS IIIA and IIIB are caused by genetic mutations that lead to a deficiency in bodily enzymes responsible for breaking down glycosaminoglycans which accumulate in cells throughout the body resulting in rapid health decline associated with the disorder.
Abeona’s therapies use virus technology to deliver functional copies of the affected genes to cells in the body. Their Cleveland team and facility are equipped to manufacture drugs and the virus used for the studies. The company can also scale up to meet clinical and future commercial demand, Santiamo said.
“We’re obviously excited that they’re continuing to expand in the neighborhood,” said Jeff Epstein, Executive Director of MidTown Cleveland Inc., a community development corporation. “They’re a great company. They chose a location that’s proximate to our health care institutions and like-minded companies clustered together. There’s an availability of high-quality work spaces here in MidTown.”
|This is part of Abeona Therapeutics’ office/lab on the top floor of
MidTown Tech Park Building No. 3, 6555 Carnegie Ave (Geis).
He noted that there are about 180 health-technology and high-technology employers in the city’s Health Tech Corridor which runs along and between Cedar and Chester avenues, from University Circle to the Campus District near St. Vincent Charity Hospital. Fifty of those firms are in MidTown proper. No public incentives have been requested to support Abeona’s expansion, Epstein added.
Abeona’s expansion will be on the northwest side of the second floor of MidTown Tech Park Building No. 1 that was built in 2011, according to plans submitted to the city’s Buidling and Housing Department.
Work will consist of removing walls to create an open “White Box” space for fit-out and the roof will be reinforced to add rooftop equipment. A stairwell that’s closest to 6555 Carnegie will also be modified. Santiamo would not speculate on the timing of the renovations and opening of their expanded facilities.
“We are in the design stage for developing additional manufacturing facilities within existing space at 6700 Euclid Ave.,” Santiamo said. “Occupancy and other goals will come into focus as we advance the project.”
Abeona was started in 2013 by former CEO Tim Miller. It grew to only four employees by the time it went public in 2015. The company generates annual revenue of about $3 million per year. Its market capitalization currently stands at about $186 million as ABEO opened at $2.20 per share on Sept. 18, according to its Nasdaq listing.