A new cell therapy development centre has opened at Guy’s Hospital in London today in the latest stage of a Government-backed effort to establish the UK as a global hub.
The centre – which will be operated by Cell Therapy Catapult – will provide cell therapy developers with the laboratory, manufacturing and collaborative space they need to move their products towards commercialisation according to spokeswoman Emma Palmer Foster.
“It's our role to support and collaborate with the cell therapy community, helping it develop its therapies and technologies” she said adding that “we're primarily tasked with growing the UK cell therapy industry, rather than prioritising generating maximum financial value from our IP.”
“We make sure that any IP we own as a result of work with our partners is suitably accessible to the cell therapy community so that all players can benefit as needed.”
Palmer Foster told BioPharma-Reporter.com that: “We worked with a range of suppliers of manufacturing equipment, to ensure that the labs are as well-equipped as possible to enable us to tackle the manufacturing and process development challenges cell therapy throws up.”
Bridging the gap with bioreactors
Technologies housed at the new 1,200msq facility include a range of disposable stirred tank and hollow fibre bioreactors, various centrifugation and tangential flow filtration systems as well as vial filling suits.
Palmer Foster explained that the idea is provide developers with the capabilities they need to ensure their manufacturing processes are scalable.
“The facilities resemble manufacturing and process development suites on a smaller scale, so that technologies can move through the labs to the stage where they are more reproducible and robust, and ready for commercial scale manufacturing.”
Plans for the cell therapy centre were announced in March, when UK Chancellor George Osborne said the Government would back the project with £55m ($93m) of public money on the basis that the country lacked the specialist manufacturing capabilities required.
This aim was echoed by Palmer Foster, who said that although early phase stem cell development in the UK is well catered for by research councils, charities and private firms, developers often struggle to take promising candidates to commercial-scale.
“Public support is needed is in the translational phase that comes after early stage research - tasks such as scaling up and making processes reproducible, designing clinical trials, understanding the regulatory environment, and working with the healthcare payers on how cell therapies can be reimbursed.
“By funding the Cell Therapy Catapult to tackle these translational hurdles and advance cell therapoies, the Government is helping the UK become a centre of cell therapy expertise, which means improved health and wealth. This also means more of the value associated with the UK's expertise can 'grow and stick' here."