The CGT Catapult – established by the government’s Innovate UK agency – has now announced the formation of a 20-strong consortium to accelerate technology development and reduce costs in cell and gene therapy manufacturing. I’m delighted that we’re now officially on the team and set to play a pivotal role in helping to ensure these life-changing therapies can be developed for use in health services throughout the world.

As well as Cambridge Consultants, the consortium comprises pharmaceutical companies, technology providers, therapy developers and charities. Its critical mission is to assess the application and combination of multiple process analytical technologies (PAT) within the cell and gene therapy industry. Developing industry specific PAT is key to enabling monitoring and control during the manufacturing process. The objective is to reduce batch failures and manufacturing costs, and so underpin accelerated progress towards commercialisation.

Business success from world-changing science.

I can’t underestimate how significant this news is. We all recognise that cell and gene therapies are a really exciting area of medicine. But the ability to deliver them to patients on a widescale is hampered – crippled actually – by a lack of these process analytical technologies. This initiative is critical to ensuring that as many patients as possible benefit from breakthrough innovation in the space. 

Driving process analytical technologies

What prompted us to get involved? As is clear, it’s vital that we act now to improve the way we make these therapies of tomorrow. We decided to participate because we, perhaps uniquely within this space, have the interdisciplinary skills and commercial overview expertise needed to understand how these technologies can best be developed and implemented. Getting involved with the Catapult consortium is a great way for us to be able to assist the whole field, assess individual companies within the space, and help drive forward these crucial PAT technologies.  

Another important point to make is that the mission is a perfect fit with our own ambitions and initiatives up to this point. We got involved in the cell and gene therapy space several years ago, building on our long background in life sciences, diagnostic developments, industrial biotechnology and medical technology development. This also aligns well with the understanding of and deep expertise that we have in physics, sensor technologies and data analysis through the AI capabilities. All of these different disciplines have been maturing simultaneously to the point where now we are able to combine them to help massively accelerate these therapies.  

Our test system will be pivotal

As for day-to-day involvement, the cool thing is that we will be at the centre of this consortium of world-leading companies – all committed to developing, implementing and supporting breakthrough ideas. Bringing all those companies together is great, as long as we have a consistent way for all the technologies to be assessed for their relative merits. So, our pivotal role is to build the system that will allow that comparison, allow that testing, and allow us to understand which of the various avenues of development are the ones really worth pursuing and perhaps which should be put on the back burner. I’m extremely happy that Cambridge Consultants will be responsible for the test system evaluating and illuminating where the relative strengths lie, and what the best combination of technologies might be going forward.   

As revealed in the GGT Catapult press announcement, this is the first initiative of its kind on this scale. The Catapult sees the PAT consortium as a catalyst in accelerating the development of the necessary knowledge and understanding – at reduced cost and investment risk to each organisation. It expects this will allow technology providers and manufacturers to develop lower cost and more robust manufacturing processes, accelerating development of advanced therapeutics. 

The team here is really excited by the opportunity to both learn from and help guide all the companies developing the technologies. We’re certainly looking forward to learning about the vision that the various players have, which will help us grasp what the industry is going to look over the next five, ten or 20 years. The task now is to get on and develop the technologies need to enable that vision. It’d be great to hear your thoughts on the exciting area of cell and gene therapy manufacturing, so please drop me an email if you’d like to continue the conversation.

See the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult press release.

James Hallinan
Head of Business Development, Bioinnovation

James specialises in bioinnovation and early-stage technology commercialisation across life sciences and healthcare

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