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Cell-based Therapies Get a Manufacturing Boost in the UK: Innovation, Standardization and Collaboration Will Be the Keys to Success

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The UK’s Cell Therapy Catapult has announced that it will construct a £55 million manufacturing center to help boost the progress of advanced therapies, including cell and gene therapies, into widespread use.

“The science of cell therapy is making significant strides, and there is no doubt about the consensus: this is set to revolutionize medicine,” says Kieran Murphy, President and CEO GE Healthcare Life Sciences. “We congratulate the Cell Therapy Catapult in getting this significant initiative off the ground and look forward to working together to help take cell therapies from pilot scale to widespread clinical and commercial reality.”

Cell-based therapies are a relatively new area of medicine that usually involve taking cells from a patient, modifying them to fight disease more effectively, growing more of them, and infusing the enhanced cells back into the patient. Whether in stroke, cancer, heart failure, neurodegenerative disease, or terminal leukemia, the breadth of diseases that could potentially be treated by cell therapies is astonishing. The advances regularly make headlines in the consumer media.

The field may well be on the verge of revolutionizing medicine, yet there are challenges ahead. Inventing a stem cell therapy that works in a patient is the first step on a very long journey to the clinic.

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“To be a successful reimbursed commercial therapy, it must be scalable in a controlled, consistently reproducible, high-quality, cost-effective and safe way,” says Phil Vanek, GE Healthcare’s GM of Cell BioProcessing. “This is one of the challenges that the UK’s Cell Therapy Catapult, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, and others in the industry are working to overcome.”

GE Healthcare is helping shape and develop a manufacturing ecosystem that supports development, production, and distribution of these breakthrough medicines. The processing challenges are formidable: If a cell therapy could cure diabetes, how would those cells be grown, characterized, stored, quality controlled, shipped and administered to millions of diabetics? Where would this happen? The volume of cells is huge, the logistics are complex, yet they are not unresolvable, especially with the culture of collaboration and innovation that has taken root in the community.

“We look forward to working with global scientific and medical communities to assist in their research into products that have the potential to address many unmet medical needs,” says Keith Thompson, CEO of the UK’s Cell Therapy Catapult. ”Regulators, academics, investors, companies, and technology suppliers will all need to come together to make broad uptake of cell-based therapies a reality.” 

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