Spark Therapeutics to Invest $575M in New State-of-the-Art Gene Therapy Innovation Center on Drexel’s University City Campus

Spark Therapeutics at Drexel Square
Photo courtesy of Spark Therapeutics.

Spark Therapeutics, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) and a fully integrated, commercial gene therapy company dedicated to challenging the inevitability of genetic disease, announced plans to invest an initial $575 million in the creation of a new, state-of-the-art gene therapy innovation center on Drexel University’s campus in the heart of Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood. Through a 99-year ground lease of Drexel’s F Lot, the new center will be located at the intersection of 30th and Chestnut Streets and will create opportunities for collaboration with Drexel and Philadelphia’s booming life sciences community. Terms of the ground lease, including financial terms, were not disclosed.

“Through this significant investment and plans to more than double our physical footprint, we're poised for continued growth as we seek to develop the next generation of genetic medicines as a member of the Roche Group,” said Jeff Marrazzo, chief executive officer and co-founder, of Spark Therapeutics. “Since founding Spark eight years ago, Philadelphia has been part of our company’s DNA and we’re proud to continue to call Philadelphia home for many years to come.”

As part of Spark’s now projected 1 million-square-foot campus in Philadelphia, the anticipated 500,000-square-foot, multi-story building will bring hundreds of the greatest minds in gene therapy together under one roof to drive science forward, challenge the inevitability of genetic disease, and serve as a Roche global center of excellence for gene therapy manufacturing. Roche, which is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, will add Philadelphia to its list of worldwide product development sites.

“As one of the U.S.’s leading biotech hubs, there is no doubt that Philadelphia will play a crucial role in the advancement of cell and gene therapies,” said Severin Schwan, chief executive officer, Roche. “Spark’s gene therapy innovation center creates endless opportunities for collaboration, talent development and research investment, and we’re proud to make a long-term commitment to the city and add Philadelphia to the Roche map.”

In addition to Spark’s physical expansion, the announcement marks the beginning of a long-term partnership with Drexel and is part of Spark’s larger commitment to sparking positive change in the Philadelphia community.

“We are proud to partner with Spark Therapeutics in advancing life sciences research and innovation in University City,” said Drexel President John Fry. “This partnership will generate unparalleled opportunities for our students and faculty to participate in groundbreaking research and to help create and sustain the workforce that will make West Philadelphia a leader in the life sciences revolution.”

“Since founding Spark, we knew Philadelphia had the potential to be the life sciences hub it is becoming today,” added Marrazzo. “From our prestigious universities and hospitals, to the investments poured annually into scientific research and the sheer volume of medical professionals that receive training here, Philadelphia has every ingredient necessary for life sciences companies to succeed. We’re honored to be part of Philadelphia’s success story and proud to feature the city in the next chapter of Spark’s story with our colleagues at Roche.”

Construction of Spark’s new gene therapy innovation center is anticipated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Drexel, a comprehensive urban university of more than 23,000 students, is one of Philadelphia's largest private employers. Drexel is a leader in experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation’s premier cooperative- education program. The University’s recognized excellence in translational research is supported by the Coulter Foundation through the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership and by nearly $130 million in sponsored research awards last year.

Drexel is rethinking its institutional boundaries and creating a vibrant presence and ecosystem of innovation in and around University City while delivering on the University’s public purpose as an anchor institution for Philadelphia. This ecosystem will ultimately benefit students through co-ops and career opportunities, benefit faculty through collaborative research and training, and benefit the surrounding community through the creation of a pipeline to employment.

Through a partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust, Schuylkill Yards, a $3.5 billion innovation district of purposefully designed mixed-use buildings and streetscapes is being constructed on 14 acres of strategically-located Drexel land over the next 20 years.

In 2014, Drexel University City Development, a joint venture between the University and Wexford, purchased a 14-acre site from the School District of Philadelphia, thereby expanding the uCity Square footprint that Wexford already was developing along Market Street. Drexel raised funds to build a facility to house a state-of-the-art public elementary school and a middle school on the site that will also be the location of a 450,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building where the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the College of Medicine will be co-relocated from other locations in the city.

At the same time, the Solutions Institute at Drexel provides business solutions to the University’s corporate and nonprofit partners, including top-tier talent pipelines, customized training and development programs, as well as interdisciplinary research-based solutions that draw upon the University’s R1-research capabilities. 

About Spark Therapeutics

Spark Therapeutics is a fully integrated, commercial company committed to discovering, developing and delivering gene therapies. Founded in 2013, Spark Therapeutics is the first company in the U.S. to receive FDA approval of a gene therapy for a genetic disease.

Today, as a member of the Roche Group, Spark is focused on breaking barriers for people and families affected by genetic diseases, including blindness, hemophilia, lysosomal storage disorders and neurodegenerative disease, and currently has four programs in clinical trials. At Spark, the vision is a world where no life is limited by a genetic disease.

A best place to work headquartered in Philadelphia, Spark is fueled by a diverse, experienced team united in a collective goal: challenging the inevitability of genetic diseases.

For more information, visit, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About Roche

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics under one roof have made Roche the leader in personalised healthcare – a strategy that aims to fit the right treatment to each patient in the best way possible.

Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management.

Founded in 1896, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and make a sustainable contribution to society. The company also aims to improve patient access to medical innovations by working with all relevant stakeholders. More than thirty medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and cancer medicines. Moreover, for the eleventh consecutive year, Roche has been recognised as one of the most sustainable companies in the Pharmaceuticals Industry by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).

The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2018 employed about 94,000 people worldwide. In 2018, Roche invested CHF 11 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 56.8 billion. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information, please visit