Seems like there is a need for contract manufacturers for cell and gene therapies. The book I’ve been reading, Jump-Starting America (Gruber and Johnson 2019), appears to be describing a problem similar to what chip designers faced that TSMC solved with fabs:
The United States is falling significantly short in providing the manufacturing resources needed to turn these genetic breakthroughs into new products. One problem is the enormous start-up costs; the cost of setting up a large-scale cell or gene therapy manufacturing facility can be upward of $200 million…these high costs are well beyond the range that is supported by venture capital investors, so start-up drug companies have no way to finance their own capacity. As a result, some 80 percent of gene and cell therapy companies outsource to contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs), facilities that lease their space to drug companies for testing and development.
There is currently lots of demand:
Existing CMOs are struggling to keep up with demand, however. Wait times at CMOs currently average over sixteen months, and the current shortfall in worldwide cell/gene therapy manufacturing may be about five times their current capacity.
I think there’s an opportunity for something Taiwan is good at, i.e. manufacturing processes:
While CMOs are expanding, they are finding it difficult to do so fast enough in large part because current manufacturing technologies are underdeveloped and referred to by insiders as “outright primitive” and “incredibly labor-intensive.” Rather than using closed, sterile bioreactors (standard for most traditional drug manufacturing), current procedures can require technicians to manually transfer materials between open plasticware. Under these modes of production, it is “not possible to achieve significant economies of scale that can support commercial viability as production levels rise.”
One potential problem may be that the complex relationships required may not fit Taiwan’s quarrelsome culture:
Expanding manufacturing access will require substantial coordination and collaboration that is not in the interest of any one manufacturer–or any one VC financier. Due to the high setup costs of the requisite infrastructure, manufacturing platforms are only economical if the fixed costs are spread across mulitple products. But doing so requires sharing commercial rights and production information at an unprecedented level.