There are now 21 clinical trials underway with cell therapies in the UK, the majority of them Phase 1/II or II studies, and with transplant/oncology indications dominating the landscape.

These are some of the key findings to emerge from a database of relevant clinical trials in the UK published by the Cell Therapy Catapult, set up at Guy’s Hospital in London as a centre of translational excellence for regenerative medicine.  

The database includes all academic and commercial trials ongoing in the UK, regardless of the sponsor’s nationality. It encompasses clinical studies involving cells as therapeutic agents, while excluding established stem-cell transplants and gene-therapy delivery systems.

The Cell Therapy Catapult plans to publish later in 2013 a database of cell therapies likely to enter clinical development over the next few years.

Development and partnership

The newly published database of ongoing trials will be used to identify potential programmes for development or partnership, as well providing an important gauge of progress in the UK cell therapy industry. The database will be updated regularly, the Catapult noted.

The available data also show that 75% of the UK clinical trials are being sponsored by a research institution, while a range of cell types are under investigation (although bone-marrow cells predominate).

Besides the transplant/oncology indications mentioned above, there is also significant activity in cardiovascular and neurological indications.

These observed trends reflect those reported in a recent European study of cell-therapy development (Maciulaitis et al, Molecular Therapy Volume 20, No 3, March 2012, pp 479-382), the Cell Therapy Catapult pointed out.

Need to convert

“The UK Clinical Trials Database is one of our early outputs, and an important part of our engagement with the community, whose input and comments we welcome,” commented Keith Thompson, the Catapult’s chief executive officer.  

While it is “encouraging to see the quality” of the early-stage work with cell therapies underway in the UK, “the need to convert this into late-stage and commercial products is clear”, Thompson cautioned.

“The Cell Therapy Catapult is working to address this translational gap, and we will be using the database to help monitor our progress,” he said.

Catapult centres are being established by the Technology Strategy Board in the UK as part of its range of programmes to stimulate innovation.

The rationale is that the best of the UK’s innovative businesses and researchers can work together through the centres to bring new products and services to commercialisation more quickly.