Grant to help more scientists enter new field of medical research
A scientist working at the Royal Free Hospital has been awarded a grant of £422,000 to help other academics develop medicines made from human cells.
Dr Mark Lowdell, director of cellular therapy at the Royal Free, will use the money, which comes from the European Commission, to help scientists from across Europe comply with the complex regulations surrounding the field of advance therapy medicinal products (ATMPs).
These medicines are made from human cells and include modified immune cells aimed at tackling cancer and tissues such as larynges and tracheas grown from stem cells. Dr Lowdell is part of the team funded to conduct trials of these engineered tissue airways at the UCL Institute for Immunity and Transplantation next year. He says more scientists could enter this field of research – which is seen as the future for the pharmaceutical industry in the UK and Europe – if they were given the skills and tools to comply with the international regulations.
Making new cells as medicines is a new concept; complying with the regulations can be extremely challenging and is often a barrier to new groups of scientists entering the field, as is the lack of staff with the specialist knowledge and training needed. The grant will be used to provide training courses with web-based access as well as practical workshops at universities across the EU, including a new course at University College London.
Dr Lowdell leads AGORA, a consortium of doctors and scientists from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, alongside cell therapy manufacturing firm PharmaCell BV.
AGORA’s partners also aim to share the ATMP regulatory documents they have developed on an open access basis to reduce the burden for new groups. These will be freely available from a dedicated website.
Dr Lowdell said: “Taking new therapies from research labs into clinical trials is immensely challenging. Our consortium will provide essential tools to help new groups to get their products into clinical trials so that more centres can bring new treatments to trial.
“The inclusion of PharmaCell BV in our consortium ensures we have access to expertise in the process of up scaling, which will allow the successful ATMPs the best chance of becoming part of routine care. We are hugely grateful to the European Commission for their support.”
Notes to editors
1. For more information contact Mary McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The Royal Free attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver, kidney and bone marrow transplantation, haemophilia, surgery for hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) conditions, clinical neurosciences, renal, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and is a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners. For further information, visit www.royalfree.nhs.uk
3. The UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation is the first of its kind in the UK and the only one outside the US. It is a joint development between UCL and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and is a strategic priority of UCL Partners. The institute places international clinical excellence and world-class research in immunology within the heart of London and facilitate the efficient and effective delivery of clinical research trials.