A new £55m state-of-the-art cell therapy manufacturing centre is to be built in Stevenage, UK, by the Cell Therapy Catapult, it was announced this week.

The UK Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre, which is to open its doors in 2017 under management by the group, will be used for the manufacture of late phase clinical trial and commercial supply of advanced therapeutic medicinal products including cell and gene therapies.

Its base on the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus “will provide additional inward investment from global companies, as well support the SME biotech and life sciences companies based in the UK”, the organisation said.

The move is expected to generate up to 150 jobs, and forecasts suggest that firms using the Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre will generate £1.2 billion of revenue by 2020 (80% via export). 

Welcoming the announcement Business Secretary Vince Cable said the state of the art facility “will ensure Britain can be a real leader in this industry” and that “supporting British scientists is crucial for our long-term economic growth”.

First AML patient gets experimental T-cell therapy

Meanwhile, a patient with acute myeloid leukaemia has been given the first experimental T-cell therapy in a Phase I/ll trial being undertaken by Catapult Therapy TCR, a partnership with UCL Business and Imperial Innovations established in July 2014 to accelerate development of this experimental treatment. 

The trial is expected to involve five centres in the UK and will assess the safety and efficacy of the T cell receptor (TCR) therapy, which targets diseases associated with over-expression of the WT1 antigen.  

The new approach - which involves modification by gene therapy of the patient's own T cells, so that they may recognise and destroy WT1-expressing cells when infused back into the body - was developed initially at Imperial College London and then at UCL by scientists funded by the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.