Asterias to set up UK arm to access cell therapy production smarts

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Cell therapy know-how attracted US investment
Cell therapy know-how attracted US investment

Related tags Cell therapy catapult Stem cell

US biotech Asterias Biotherapeutics will set up a UK subsidiary to access Cell Therapy Catapult’s (CTC) process development know-how.

California-based Asterias contracted CTC to develop manufacturing processes for AST-VAC2, a candidate lung cancer therapy made mature dendritic cells derived from pluripotent stem cells. CTC will also manufacture the product commercially if it is approved.

CEO Jane Lebkowski said Asterias’ UK division would allow it to collaborate effectively with the “Cell Therapy Catapult centre at a low cost in the medium term while providing a base from which to grow our AST-VAC2 platform and maximize its value.”

CTC told us “the work will be done at our development laboratories in London, at Guys Tower​.”

The organisation – which is financially supported by the Government’s Innovate UK agency – confirmed that Asterias will be paying a commercial rate for its services but did not disclose how much.

CTC also made clear that if AST-VAC2 is approved, Asterias is not under any obligation to sell the immunotherapy product to the UK National Health Service (NHS) at a reduced rate.

“The Cell Therapy Catapult is a private sector organisation, independent of the NHS.  Companies work with the Cell Therapy Catapult because of its depth and breadth of expertise which allows it to create innovative solutions to industry needs.”

News of the contract comes just days after CTC announced it had hired engineering contractor M+W to construct a facility for large scale cell-therapy manufacturing at a site in Stevenage.

CTC told us that: “The contract and the establishment of a UK subsidiary by Asterias opens the possibility that in the future manufacturing could be done at Stevenage​.”

AST-VAC2 is due to be examined in Phase I/IIa clinical trials in lung cancer patients under an existing collaboration with charity Cancer Research UK, which will be responsible for production of the therapy for the study.

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