Key to treating genetic disorders being unlocked in Pearland

PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Just 10 miles from the world's largest medical center, you'll find the world's largest cell and gene therapy manufacturing center.

"Our business is growing so quickly that we outgrew our facilities closer to the city," explained Tom Hochuli, of Swiss-based company Lonza, which landed a new facility in Pearland. "So we looked at a place where we could expand our business."

Scientists at the 300,000-square-foot facility work with pharmaceutical companies to treat genetic disorders.

To put it simply, cells and genes can cause diseases.

But, imagine if you could replace parts of problem genes with new, better functioning genes.

"It's a one and done kind of therapy," explained Francesca Vitelli with Lonza. "You deliver the medicine one time and that changes the outcome and the life span and progression."

The idea is to treat disorders without having to use daily medicine or surgery.

Everything created at the facility goes through extensive testing by the FDA before it's approved for use.

"The field is poised for a boom, which is a boon for us to have new ways to treat disease that were otherwise untreatable," said Vitelli.

"Last year, we started with 150 employees. Right now, we're at 310," Hochuli added. "By the end of the year, we'll be at 400, and my expectation is that within the next couple of years, we'll double that."

You can learn about Lonza's mission through its website.

Want to see more from the heart of your community? Check out your town's stories through ABC13's HTX+ Facebook page.

Follow Pooja Lodhia on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.