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Digital tech from Autolus and Oxford BioMedica to speed advanced therapies

UK funds efforts to make country a leader in cell and gene therapy

Autolus, a rising star of UK biotech, is among three firms who have gained government backing to develop digital systems to bring advanced therapies into the mainstream.

The London-based company is developing its own next-generation CAR-T treatments, and has been supported by the government-funded Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. This focuses on creating the infrastructure and ecosystem which will be needed if the UK is to fulfil its ambition to be a world leader in so-called advanced therapies.

Also receiving funding is Oxford BioMedica, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of cell and gene therapies, best know for supplying the lentiviral vector used in Novartis’ CAR-T therapy Kymriah.

Finally, contract research and development firm Arc Trinova in Northumberland is less well known, but has also gained funding to develop its tech-driven approach to making advanced therapy distribution more safe and efficient.

The three companies will share a £4.3m Digitalisation of Medicines Manufacturing fund from the government Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy, (BEIS) which aims to create more efficient and innovative methods for manufacturing medicines.

Arc Trinova will use new technologies to speed up the process of the production of patient specific medicines. It is currently a time-consuming process dispensing individual doses from bulk because of the careful handling, labelling and batch release processes.

Oxford Biomedica will look to dramatically reduce the supply time for manufacturing by using a new digital and robotics framework to increase capacity, reduce waste and cut costs.

Autolus will look to avoid mix-ups of complex medicines on the supply chain by developing a computer based system that will constantly monitor the operation, making adjustments to timing, co-ordination and production where necessary, improving the efficiency of the whole system and working at a pace faster than possible with humans.

Technical barriers to manufacturing cell and gene therapies and creating an entirely new integrated supply chain all the way to the patient (or from the patient and back, in the case of autologous cell therapies) is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing the field.

Lord Henley

Life Sciences Minister Lord Henley said:

“New technology can help us live longer, healthier lives and the new projects announced today will improve the speed and accuracy with which medicines get to the people that need them.

“Advances in technology can help us address the challenges that an ageing society presents and we are backing the technologies of tomorrow in our modern Industrial Strategy, with the biggest increase in public research and development investment in UK history.”

The first ever CAR-T therapies, Novartis’ Kymriah and Gilead’s Yescarta gained European approval in August, and NHS England has fast-tracked their uptake on the health service, aiming to be among the first healthcare system in Europe to use them.

A network of Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres has been set up across England to enable patients to access these and subsequent therapies cell and gene therapies on the NHS.

In a separate series of investments, the BEIS has also followed up on its commitment made in the Life Sciences Sector Deal, by providing a further £3 million to support the Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres.

22nd November 2018

From: Regulatory

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