13 March 2023

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) have opened a major Clinical Biotechnology Centre (CBC) last week, which will help the UK to develop and manufacture new gene and cell therapies, they say.

The state-of-the-art facility in Filton, north Bristol, will manufacture products for the development of therapies for currently incurable diseases, such as some forms of cancer, sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis. Some of these will be personalised therapies.

It will also support early phase clinical trials and pre-clinical work, giving patients quicker access to the latest treatments.

Dr Lilian Hook, NHSBT’s director of cell, apheresis and gene therapies said: “The CBC is basically a factory – it manufactures the building blocks (or components) needed to produce gene therapies.   Researchers and developers can ask us to manufacture the specific components they require.

“This will enable cutting edge research with the potential to develop cures for some critical diseases which can currently only be treated and often ultimately prove fatal. We’ll be supporting delivery of these curative treatments into the NHS, so patients can access them more quickly.

“The CBC will help the UK grow its cell and gene therapy industry in a rapidly growing international market. We won’t be designing the treatments but we will be manufacturing them to the right scale and clinical grade. Cell and gene therapy is a growing area for the healthcare sector and of part of our direction of travel as an organisation.”

The new CBC, which was part funded by a £9.43 million Government grant, will increase the UK’s limited capacity to make the DNA plasmids and viral vectors used in the manufacture of gene therapies and genetically modified cell therapies.

Although larger commercial sites exist, the CBC will specialise in providing researchers access to flexible sites where they can make smaller amounts for treatments still being researched and clinically tested.

Steve Bates, chief executive officer of the UK BioIndustry Association, said: “NHS Blood and Transplant is something of a hidden secret in the UK ecosystem in terms of its capability to manufacture cell and gene therapies. This fantastic new centre will enable their capable team to better partner with companies in this key growth area of our life science economy.”

The project was backed by one of the first patients to receive CAR-T treatment on the NHS.

Nitya Raghava, aged 22, from Gloucester, was treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia three years ago – and has been free of disease since.

She said: “CAR-T was absolutely lifesaving for me. Without it, I don’t think I would be here.

“I think it’s just so exciting to see other new cell and gene therapies being developed at the CBC that can help other people too.

“I now feel great, I’m at university and I am living my life as normal four years on from receiving CAR-T cells, because I’m in complete molecular remission with no evidence of disease now.”

Source: NHS Blood and Transplant


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