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NextUp: WuXi AppTec Is Speeding Up Drug Development Worldwide

The Chinese pharma company, with its deep South Philadelphia Navy Yard presence, is globally recognized for building an innovative platform that shortens drug discovery and research and development time.


WuXi AppTec is speeding up drug development worldwide. Getty Images | Tinpixels

“NextUp” is a weekly NextHealth PHL feature that highlights the local leaders, organizations and research shaping the Greater Philadelphia region’s life sciences ecosystem. Email qmuse@phillymag.com with pitches for NextUp.

Who: WuXi AppTec is on a mission. The global pharmaceutical and medical technology company wants to help scientists expedite the discovery and development of new treatments for patients around the globe. WuXi launched with a 7,000-square-foot laboratory in 2000. While the company now has 27 R&D and manufacturing sites around the globe, a healthy portion of the company’s operations is housed right here in Philadelphia.

WuXi is the largest tenant in South Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, occupying four facilities that span more than 380,000 square feet of space. Wu Xi was one of the first companies to move in at the Navy Yard in 2004. They’ve since grown from 150 employees to more than 600 employees working in the Philadelphia region.

What: WuXi supports professionals in pharmaceutical, biotech, and other life science industries by providing a number of services including, small molecule therapeutics R&D, manufacturing and testing; biological therapeutics R&D and manufacturing; biologics and medical device testing; genomics and molecular diagnostics; and, a service in high demand in Cellicon Valley—manufacturing and quality control testing of cell and gene therapies. Through its services, WuXi gives companies the fundamental resources needed to support new biological research and drug discovery.

“Our goal is to build the foundations upon which anyone, and any company, can be empowered to realize their innovation dreams,” Ge Li, WuXi AppTec chairman and chief executive officer, explained on the company’s website. “Together, we can continue to improve productivity, and bring new medicines to patients much faster.”

When: In May, WuXi joined Thomas Jefferson University as a partner in its new Institute for Bioprocessing to provide workforce training and certifications to Jefferson students. WuXi’s presence in South Philadelphia has also attracted California-based Iovance Biotherapeutics to build a 136,000-square-foot office, lab, and light manufacturing facility in the Navy Yard. In May, WuXi expanded its partnership with Iovance, extending its agreement to manufacture tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) products for Iovance’s cancer immunotherapy treatments.

Why: While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) predicts it will, by 2025, approve ten to twenty gene and cell therapy treatments each year, thousands of diseases still have no cure. The process for researching and developing new medicines is lengthy, costly and complex. On average, it takes more than twelve years and anywhere from $300 million to $1 billion to bring a drug to market. To successfully develop cures, companies need access to a tremendous amount of resources including state-of-the-art technologies, efficient manufacturing, and often, the ability to collaborate with top scientists in the industry.

What It Means: WuXi’s presence is not only attracting top biotech and pharma leaders to the region, but with access to WuXi’s expansive resources, companies may have a better shot at going from drug discovery to FDA review sooner. The quicker pace ultimately means more cures for patients. When you bring key players together in one place with the best resources and technology, innovation is inevitable.