CAR-T is having a moment. Novartis (NVS) won the first Food and Drug Administration approval in August for this class of personalized cancer treatments, beating rivals in the race to sell a therapy that is custom-made with individual patients’ cells.

Manufacturing such treatments presents a challenge radically different from what most biopharma companies face in making standard drugs. Treating one patient with CAR-T — sometimes called a “living drug” — requires cells to be extracted, purified, modified to become cancer killers, and then returned to that patient.

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