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Oxford Biomedica taps Microsoft to progress gene therapy delivery tech

Will develop in silico models and novel algorithms

Oxford BioMedica

Oxford Biomedica has entered into a two-year research and development partnership with Microsoft to change the way gene therapies are delivered and manufactured.

Gene therapies have already begun to revolutionise treatment in a number of diseases, with therapies such as Luxturna from Spark (now to be acquired by Roche) leading the way.

However, there is room for improvement as the drugs are often slow to manufacture and costly to produce.

The new partnership plans to address some of these issues, including problems with viral vectors, a synthetic vehicle that is responsible for delivering a modified gene into a new site.

Viral vectors often have a high toxicity profile and can cause inflammatory responses that could offset its delivery target.

The companies have said it will harness the use of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud platform Azure to analyse large data sets provided by Oxford Biomedica, along with machine learning techniques, to develop in silico models and novel algorithms.

These new technologies will help advance the next generation of cell and gene delivery approaches, the companies claim.

Andrew Phillips, Head of Biological Computation at Microsoft, said: "Oxford Biomedica is at the cutting edge of cell and gene therapy delivery and their highly sophisticated manufacturing processes generate a vast wealth of valuable data.

“We anticipate that by combining computational modelling, lab automation, machine learning and the power of the cloud, we can help them in their quest to make existing treatments more cost effective and in future to develop groundbreaking new treatments.

For Oxford Biomedica, the new partnership builds on its digital framework initiative that was established back in 2018 to collect and combine its data gathered from a multitude of devices and processes to enable a deeper holistic analysis.

It aims to apply a range of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to this data set, hoping to reduce time and cost in R&D manufacturing.

Jason Slingsby (pictured below), Chief Business Officer of Oxford Biomedica, said: “The collaboration with Microsoft Research will harness our rich data resources to offer greater insights into the biological processes required to enhance quality and optimise yields of lentiviral vectors.”

Jason Slingsby

Oxford Biomedica’s lentiviral vectors platform, known as LentiVector, is a method that allows genes to be inserted, modified or deleted at the targeted site.

It’s the approach that is used in Novartis’ Kymriah, a CAR-T therapy that was approved last year for the treatment of those with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma.

However, Novartis was a prime example of the complex manufacturing issues associated with CAR-Ts, and last year  struggled to produce the armed T cells in sufficient quantities to supply demand.

Slingsby added: “ [We also have] work underway to rapidly and flexibly design, simulate and execute complex experimental designs to develop next generation manufacturing processes, including with stable producer cell lines for lentiviral vectors.

“Our goal is to enable faster, cheaper and more reliable manufacture of high quality next-generation cell and gene therapies to allow more patients to benefit.”

Article by
Gemma Jones

13th March 2019

From: Research, Sales

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