Grant awarded to support innovative cancer treatments

The Cell and Gene Therapy (CGT) Catapult, in collaboration with Oxford MEStar and AK (Suzhou) Biomedical, announced it has been awarded a grant of £506,000 from the Innovate UK-Jiangsu Industrial Challenge Programme, a project set up by Innovate UK and Jiangsu Science and Technology Department to stimulate economic growth, and foster ties between China and the UK

Through the grant, CGT Catapult, Oxford MEStar, a UK based bioengineering company specialising in process automation for the regenerative medicine and cell therapy sector, and AK (Suzhou) Biomedical, a Chinese biotech firm specialising in products and services for clinical applications aim to support the development of a novel manufacturing system intended to dramatically reduce the cost of production of CAR-T therapy, a highly promising cancer treatment.

CAR-T therapies are novel immunotherapy treatments derived from a patient’s own T-cells and genetically modified to combat cancer. Although highly innovative, CAR-T therapies can cost up to $500,000 per treatment, due to reasons including the complex development and manufacture of these specialised cells, which subsequently could place strain on modern healthcare budgets and systems.

Focusing on addressing this issue, the proposed system will reduce costs by utilising automation, to cut down on labour costs, ensuring maximum efficiency and quality whilst maintaining high GMP standards. Existing systems currently suffer from high equipment and consumables costs, and heightened failure rate due to ‘open’ processes.

“This project represents a significant milestone as our first collaboration with a Chinese organisation,” said Keith Thompson, CEO of CGT Catapult.

“It is also an excellent opportunity for us to deploy our expertise in manufacturing automation. CAR-T therapies have shown remarkable results in the clinic but manufacturing remains a costly and complex constraint, we hope that with this novel manufacturing system we can reduce the cost of these treatments and make this ground-breaking therapy more accessible to patients.”

Professor Zhanfeng Cui, the founder of Oxford MEStar, said: “Our relationship with the Chinese partner AK (Suzhou) Biomedical has already led to the development of an automated cell expansion system for cell therapy applications.”

“This new grant strengthens our core engineering technology development and widens our collaboration with our UK partner CGT Catapult working together with AK (Suzhou) Biomedical in developing a leading cost-effective manufacturing system beneficial to patients from the UK, China and worldwide.”

The three partners in the project will bring together their expertise and capabilities to progress the development of a scalable manufacturing solution. Oxford MEStar, a spin-out from Oxford University, will be the industrial lead in the UK and will develop the prototype of the modular bioreactor system.

AK (Suzhou) Biomedical, will be the industrial lead in China and will be responsible for validating the system in a GMP environment and carrying out pre-production prototyping. CGT Catapult will provide expert design and testing of the system through exemplar immunotherapy processes, and further support development and evaluation as a scalable solution.

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