Fujifilm Irvine Scientific Inc., which develops and manufactures serum-free and chemically defined cell culture media for bioproduction and cell therapy manufacturing, has completed its Armstrong Cell Culture Center of Excellence.
The company calls it a “state-of-the-art center” that doubles the footprint of the prior R&D facility. It enables the company to expand its capabilities in “cutting-edge” discovery research, bioproduction, cell and gene therapy, Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and cytogenetics.
The new spot, in Irvine and a few blocks from the headquarters of Edwards Lifesciences Corp., runs about 30,000 square feet.
Construction of the site near Fujifilm Irvine Scientific’s headquarters, which ironically is in Santa Ana along Warner Avenue, began last October and has recently been opened to its growing Life Sciences and Medical Media divisions.
The new Armstrong Center will support manufacturing sciences and technologies, single-use technology development, and automation platforms for media development. The expanded facility will also offer dedicated workspace for research into analytical chemistry, virology, ART and additional cell culture and molecular based assay development.
Global demand is increasing “faster than ever before,” according to Bob Newman, the chief scientific officer at Fujifilm Irvine Scientific.
“It has to do with the therapies being developed that are showing great efficacies,” Newman told the Business Journal.
Its biopharmaceutical customers are becoming increasing successful at making popular therapies that treat everything from cancer treatments to gene therapies to fertility medication to vaccines, he said.
“We had a big boost with the COVID therapies,” Newman said. “That really drove a big step forward us.
“Every one of our businesses is seeing an increase in demand for our products,” he said.
The company is projecting a doubling of its R&D headcount by the end of 2022. Its website lists more than 100 job openings in Orange County.
Fujifilm Irvine Scientific currently employs more than 500, Newman said.
The Fujifilm Pivot
Irvine Scientific, which dates to 1970, was known for the development and manufacture of cell culture media, reagents and medical devices for researchers and clinicians.
Fujifilm, which created the first computer in Japan in the 1950s, first gained fame for making film for cameras, including a disposable camera and the world’s first digital camera. As digital cameras and cellphones reduced the need for photographic paper, the company in recent years shifted its business to developing a wider range of businesses, including healthcare.
In 2018, Fujifilm expanded into biopharmaceuticals and regenerative medicine treatments by purchasing locally based Irvine Scientific, as well as IS Japan for $800 million from prior owner, Japan-based JXTG Holdings.
Tokyo-based Fujifilm Holdings Corp. reported annual sales rose 15% to $21 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31.
Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is a critical raw material supplier for the biopharmaceutical industry, Newman said. Its core business is growing cells that biopharmaceutical companies can use to make their vaccines, antibodies and other therapies.
“We are really a manufacturer of raw materials—we’re not developing a final therapy—we’re producing the supplies and tools,” Newman said.
Newman, who declined to say how much revenue Fujifilm Irvine Scientific generates, said expansion should continue.
“The healthcare sector is the fastest growing within Fujifilm so there’s a lot of support from the parent company,” he said. “There continues to be this big investment in the healthcare space.”