Getting to know Alberto Santagostino, recently appointed Business Unit (BU) Head of Cell and Gene Technologies (CGT)


Alberto Santagostino recently joined Lonza from McKinsey and brings with him extensive experience from the biomanufacturing industry. We caught up with him in between the ESGCT conference and a visit to Lonza’s Netherland site for cell and gene therapy manufacturing.

1.     How did you get to know Lonza?

I’ve worked with Lonza for several years as an external consultant. On the personal side, over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity and the pleasure to get to know many people in the management of the organization.


2.     What made you want to take on this role?

Maybe as a young man with some naïve attitude, the aspiration and ambition of contributing to filling the gap between the current standard of care and the possibility of curing any remaining disease is pretty inspiring. It’s difficult to think of any other player better positioned than Lonza to do this because we are really enabling a great share of the industry to make this a reality.

It’s important that companies focus on the clinical development, but Lonza is the preeminent player in enabling the technological development of this cell and gene technology. Without Lonza’s technical knowhow, this innovation would not proceed as fast and I feel that Lonza is and will increasingly be a major enabler of technologies and platforms.

Thanks to my background in industrial biotechnologies, educated and grown in science, and my experience at McKinsey serving every sort of company from the big multinational pharma company to the small start-up, I got to appreciate the value of CDMOs because they are much more pervasive enablers of the industry compared to product focused companies. The pipeline of products groomed by Lonza in technical development is significantly wider than anyone else, counting dozens of products, across the diverse Cell and Gene modalities and manufacturing processes, hence building on an unmatched expertise and the technical challenge of each innovation.

In short, it’s super exciting and there is no better place to be for driving advancements. Also, very honestly, it’s because I like the team. We have many of the best talents for the job that exists on the market and everyone is extremely welcoming and making it easy for me to integrate.


3.    What is the first thing you are doing as you start as VP, Head of the Cell and Gene Technologies Business Unit?

Lonza is more than ever committed to cell & gene therapy, because we see the strategic avenue of growth that this new modality brings, acknowledging the companies’ leadership and a commitment to continued investment to ensure we continue shaping the market. Cell and gene therapies are not emerging anymore, they are pivoting to be established technologies. In this spirit, the first thing I will be doing is to accelerate the scale-up of our infrastructure to meet this ambition. This is about people, customer service and new technological innovation. So by the way, if anyone out there in the industry is a good talent in the space, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on LinkedIn because we could have a place for you.


4.     Where do you see cell & gene therapy evolving over the next 5 to 10 years?

Today we have exciting science that has proved itself to be transformational in terms of efficacy and safety, and we will make sure to take this science into operations and to industrialize it. Therefore, what I see in the next 5 to 10 years is that we will have cell & gene therapy that is comparable in market size to the recombinant protein one. We will make sure that we enable the journey and provide better access and quality than others.

                    These are exciting times and I look forward to working with our customers to reach those milestones together.

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