The construction of the new 5,300m2 building, just 500 meters from its current facilities in Montaigu-Vendée, was started in June 2021. One and a half years later, Clean Cells and its 140 employees fittingly celebrated their move to brand new premises on January 12, 2023, in the presence of the highest departmental representatives of the French government.
The business’s exponential growth in recent years meant that the 2,000 m2 premises in which it was located had become too small. “These new 5,300m2 of offices and laboratories will allow us to quadruple our analytical capacities,” said Olivier Boisteau, Co-founder of Clean Cells. “This state-of-the-art facility complies with the highest standards and offers our employees premium working conditions.”
The new building has a quality control unit that is four times bigger than the previous one, a cell production unit and a unit to develop new analytical methods to increase the catalog, all in a 3,000m2 laboratory, plus the logistics area and the offices. The site will be capable in time of housing 220 people. Around sixty new employees, with a range of profiles (laboratory technicians, development engineers, managers,…), need to be recruited over the next three years.
The company has decided to renew all its equipment, which will be fully operational when the teams arrive in early February. The production staff will join them in September 2023, once the building have been completely finished.
With this inauguration, Clean Cells now has the largest biomedicines control and cell bank production site in Europe.
“Clean Cells supports the development of innovative biological medicines by controlling these molecules. By increasing our capacities by a factor of four, we will be able to support more projects and contribute to a national move to locate and re-locate biological medicines production sites in France. By itself, it would make no sense, but the fact that it is part of a national policy extends the scope of the project,” Olivier Boisteau, Co-founder of Clean Cells.
As it falls within the current dynamics of the French and European reindustrialization of biomedicines, referred to in the France 2030 stimulus plan, the new building benefited from State aid, operated by Bpifrance, as part of the “Capacity building” Call for Expressions of Interest, in the amount of €6.8 million, from a total budget of €22 million, including equipment.
The company made the bet several years ago, ahead of many others, of having a department dedicated to the study of the genetic stability of therapeutic cells, in particular Car-T cells. “These controls are essential because these cells modified in vitro no longer evolve in a normal environment and may, as a result, suffer oxidative stress that could lead to genetic mutations, thus making them potentially cancerous, whereas it is a new and very promising therapeutic area of study,” said Olivier Boisteau. Car-T cells are, in particular, used to heal children suffering from leukemia.
Winners of the Fondation Aventis-Institut de France in 2000, Clean Cells was founded by three associates the same year. Pioneers in its domain, the biotech company specialized when it was launched in the detection of mycoplasmas, small bacteria that are undetectable to the naked eye, capable of feeding themselves from cell debris but which contaminate them. Over the years, it expands its panel of analytical methods.
The company has today established itself as one of the largest French biopharmaceutical sub-contractors, in quality controls/safety of biological products and the production of cells for therapeutic antibodies or vaccines.
It has 174 clients in France, the rest of Europe, the USA, Asia and Israel and achieves revenues of €22 million annually (€33 million for the Clean Biologics group).
In October 2018, in order to develop Clean Cells’ CDMO activities, the investment fund ArchiMed acquired a majority stake in the company. The group Clean Biologics was thus created. It acquired two further companies in the years that follow (Naobios in 2019 and Biodextris in 2021) which complement the Clean Cells product offer, thus providing clients with a single point of contact.
The group has always had the aim of putting people at the center of its concerns, such that “the talented individuals that join it can feel involved, be fulfilled, thoroughly trained, and able to progress or to change position within the company,” said Olivier Boisteau. “We start from the principle that employees who are in good physical and mental shape work better.” A sports hall and a siesta area have for example been installed on the new site, in addition to games and relaxation areas. This “cherry on the cake” is but a small detail in a much more profound and global HR policy.
Clean Cells is also a founder member of the France Biolead association, that supports the production of biological medicines alongside major players such as Sanofi, Servier, INSERM or the CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives).