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Excellos Opens Cell Manufacturing Facility

BIOTECH: Therapy Products Designed to Better Match Patients

Excellos, Inc. is expanding its capabilities in contract development and manufacturing.

The company, which was founded in 2021 based on technologies developed at the San Diego Blood Bank (SDBB), will cut the ribbon on a new cell therapy GMP manufacturing facility located in downtown San Diego on July 19.

David Wellis
CEO
Excellos, Inc.

“Cell therapies are the future, and with thousands of clinical trials going on right now, the future is arriving fast,” said Excellos CEO David Wellis. “Our relationship with the San Diego Blood Bank and their large pool of donors, our proprietary Excellos 360 technology, and our ability to support every phase of the treatment development process make us an ideal partner in the next generation of cancer therapy.”

Excellos’ new facility has around 6,000 square feet of cell and gene manufacturing capability in five ISO 7 clean-room suites that will produce products such as chimeric antibody receptor-engineered T cells (CAR-T) and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) for customers ranging from researchers at local institutes to biotechs and “all the way to major pharma,” Wellis said. “We have two partners whom by the end of the year we’ll be manufacturing their commercial, FDA-approved products.”

Growth Opportunity

Excellos’ previous facility within SDBB only had two clean rooms to manufacture cells in. When the company moved into its current downtown location it was “spec built for just lab space,” said Sun Ra Bullins, Excellos vice president of operations, cell manufacturing.

Sun Ra Bullins
VP Operations, Cell Manufacturing
Excellos, Inc.
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“It took a little imagination to see it transform into what we have now,” Bullins said, adding that the remodel of the lab began in January and involved removing sections of lab benches and breaking through walls to build the GMP commercial-ready space.

Before the new manufacturing capabilities were built, Excellos offered some cell manufacturing services, “but it was nothing that could go beyond very early-stage clinical material,” Bullins said, adding that the new facility now has “substantial capacity to meet the needs of most allogeneic processes.”

That capacity will become more and more needed as more and more cell therapies are approved by FDA. Currently, there are less than 10 approved cell therapies, but there are over 2,000 clinical trials underway, Wellis said.

“There’s lots of opportunity for growth,” he said. “There’s just this wave that is coming and there are not enough manufacturing capabilities and resources.”

Better Matched Cells

Excellos was initially based on SDBB’s umbilical cord blood banking program, which stores umbilical cord blood for stem cells.

“That is a great community program. However, it’s not a money-making business,” Wellis said, explaining that SDBB’s nonprofit status makes the program’s margins tough to maintain.

The umbilical cord blood program, Wellis said, essentially made SDBB akin to a biologics manufacturer. “The beginnings of cell therapy are kind of the same thing,” he added. “Cell therapy, though, is based on white blood cells, which the blood bank gets rid of.”

Robert Tressler
Chief Science Officer
Excellos, Inc.

Seeing an opportunity, Wellis said he brought in Robert Tressler, now chief science officer at Excellos, to look at expanding the impact of cord blood banking into more cancer therapies and ways to better utilize the white blood cells collected at the blood bank.

“Cell therapies and gene therapies will soon replace chemotherapies. This whole targeted approach to treatment will be phenomenal,” Wellis said. “The raw material for these therapies comes from you and I. It’s a white blood cell donation from a person.”

However, because of the differences in people there needs to be a way to better characterize the raw material. Excellos 360 technology is a way to better match the cells with the individual patient.

“More effective cell therapy treatments begin with more effective cells,” Tressler said. “Excellos 360 deep cell characterization goes beyond typical cell screening, so we can identify the key characteristics that will determine the cell’s effectiveness in combatting disease,” Tressler said. “Ultimately, this improves clinical outcomes and lowers treatment costs.”

Excellos, Inc

Founded: 2021
CEO: David Wellis
Headquarters: Downtown San Diego
Business: CDMO for cell and gene therapies
Fundraising: Excellos closed a $15 million growth funding round in 2022.
Employees: 45
Website: www.excellos.com
Notable: Excellos’ technologies were first developed at the San Diego Blood Bank.

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