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Cell, Gene Therapy R&D/Mfring Center in Works

Lab flasks

(Republica, Pixabay)

25 Nov. 2019. A consortium of companies, universities, and hospitals are creating an innovation and manufacturing center in the Boston area for cell and gene therapies. The facility aims to centralize and streamline development and manufacturing of cell and gene therapies, with backers so far pledging $50 million to get it off the ground.

The as-yet unnamed center will provide research space and manufacturing for taking advances in cell and gene therapy from academic labs through later development stages and scaling up production for clinical trials. The not-for-profit facility is expected to support technologies such as genome editing, stem cells, and immunotherapies. While academic labs are turning out in new developments in these fields, say the developers, they often face bottlenecks as long as 18 months in ramping up production for later development and human testing.

The consortium creating the new center are the companies GE Healthcare Life Sciences, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a developer of life science research campuses. Joining the three companies on the center’s board are representatives from Harvard University and MIT. Contributing organizations include the teaching hospitals and research institutes Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as the life science supplier company MilliporeSigma and the Massachusetts state government.

The new center is expected to offer 30,000 square feet of lab and clean-room manufacturing space meeting industry-standard “good manufacturing practices,” with a staff of at least 40. The facility aims to reduce the time and complexity of transforming a concept shown feasible in research labs into a tangible product, and also reducing its costs and risks. Those development stages, say the developers, are difficult for individual organizations, thus sharing that burden could speed new cell and gene therapies into the clinic.

“There’s an incredible need and a major bottleneck in delivery of many of these methods — as well as [high] cost,” says Harvard Medical School immunologist Arlene Sharpe in a university statement. “So having a nimble facility that’s able to think about DNA, RNA, peptides, cellular therapies is a great thing at this point in time.”

“By bringing together the talent that exists only in the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem and fostering collaboration,” adds Laurie Glimcher, president of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in a statement, “this new manufacturing center will help to extend the benefit of these technologies to more patients and accelerate discoveries to effectively treat more diseases.”

Alexandria Real Estate Equities is expected to help plan site selection and technical design for the new facility. The company says it has built and managed life science facilities in and near Boston since 1997.

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