British gene therapy innovation hubs launched

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LifeArc, MRC and BBSRC create £18m network of gene therapy hubs to advance promising research into new treatments for patients across Britain.

LifeArc and the Medical Research Council (MRC), with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), announce this week three major investments to create a national network of cutting-edge gene therapy innovation hubs.

£18m of funding will support the creation of the three dedicated facilities across Britain to advance the clinical development of new genetic treatments. It will have the potential to transform care for millions of patients including those with rare and life-threatening genetic diseases.

The hubs will be located at:

  • Kings College London
  • NHS Blood and Transplant, Bristol
  • University of Sheffield

Huge potential for patients

These innovation hubs will enable academic-led clinical trials of novel gene therapies to take place, helping the most innovative research to reach patients.

Gene therapies offer huge potential as treatments for a wide range of conditions, and the UK has a world-class genetics research base. However, to date, academics have found it difficult to get access to the:

  • clinical materials
  • facilities
  • expertise required to progress gene therapy research into clinical trials.

These hubs will unlock development pathways for these new treatments by offering access to good manufacturing practice (GMP) facilities for:

  • clinical trial materials
  • essential translational support
  • regulatory advice.

The hubs will operate as a coordinated network, sharing technical skills and resources to enable innovative gene therapy research.

Cross-network coordination

The creation and ongoing operation of the hub network will be overseen by a cross-network coordination committee to:

  • promote sharing of knowledge and capabilities
  • engage with the academic community
  • foster interactions with commercial organisations to facilitate the onward the development of new genetic medicines.

Dr Melanie Lee, CEO of LifeArc, said:

Recent innovations in gene therapies hold enormous potential for treating conditions such as rare diseases, but often promising ideas – particularly in academia – are not making it through to patients. Through our collaboration, we aim to meet the need for researchers to have access to the essential facilities and translational advice to progress promising research.

Professor Fiona Watt, MRC’s Executive Chair said:

Support for innovative advanced therapies has been a long-standing priority for MRC, and so we are delighted to announce this unique partnership with LifeArc. The new network of innovation hubs for gene therapies will build on the UK’s great strengths in this area. They will provide targeted investment in vital infrastructure to accelerate academic research programmes down the path to patient benefit, supporting the delivery of a new wave of genetic medicines.

Dr Lee Beniston, BBSRC’s Associate Director for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative R&D, noted:

Gene therapies have outstanding clinical potential, but their development is critically dependent on the manufacture of the underpinning viral vector delivery technology. Over a number of years, BBSRC has made significant investments to help support bioprocess research and development. We are therefore delighted to be investing in this network of hubs, which will harness the UK’s excellence in bioprocess innovation to tackle key challenges in viral vector manufacturing.

You can read more about this initiative on the LifeArc website.


Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to: https://www.ukri.org/

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