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November 25th, 2019

Major initiative for cell and gene therapies

Innovative public-private partnership led by Harvard and MIT aims to bolster state’s role as a leading region globally for life sciences

By Alvin Powell, Harvard Gazette

Diagram from concept to treatment

The new partnership seeks to ease a bottleneck in the development of new cell and gene therapies — and give Massachusetts researchers and companies an advantage — by adding cell manufacturing capacity, pioneering improvements to the production process, and fostering advances in the underlying science.

An innovative new major private-public partnership led by Harvard and MIT aims to accelerate one of the hottest and most promising areas of medical research: cell and gene therapy.

“I just think it’s a huge opportunity,” said Terry McGuire, a founder of the venture capital firm Polaris Partners and a member of Massachusetts Life Sciences Strategies Group, a panel of academic, government, health-care, and industry officials. “Clearly, [it] is the next great frontier, and it’s going to be hugely important, both from a research perspective and from a clinical perspective.”

Announced Monday, the project, which will bring the universities together with leading local hospitals, major corporations and state officials, will create a new, as-yet-unnamed center for advanced biological innovation and manufacturing and remove a big impediment to research. The new facility, expected to open by the end of 2021, seeks to ensure that Massachusetts will remain a leading region globally for life sciences.

Harvard Provost Alan Garber, who helped conceive of the project more than two years ago and has shepherded it since, said an important benefit will be the community that develops among those from academia and industry, whose work has traditionally been separate.

“The broad question that we were trying to address was, ‘How can we best position our region to be preeminent in the life sciences in the decades to come?’” Garber said. “We have a vibrant life-sciences community, with some of the world’s greatest hospitals, universities, and life-sciences companies of all kinds. We also have a strong financial sector that helps to spawn and support new companies. So the elements for rapid progress in the life sciences — particularly in the application of the life sciences to human health — are all here. But with such a rapid pace of innovation, it’s easy to fall behind. We wanted to make sure that would not happen here.”

The roughly 30,000-square-foot facility will have dedicated manufacturing and innovation spaces. Current models show eight planned clean rooms designed to provide the tight process control necessary to manufacture materials that will be used in human trials. Nearby laboratory space will be reserved for promising late-stage research coming out of academic labs or early start-ups. Leading experts, skilled at refining new concepts for patient application, will provide professional guidance and usher their emerging therapies from lab to patient clinic.

Read the full announcement in the Harvard Gazette

Tags: cell therapy, gene therapy

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