On 10 March, the National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) opened a new Clinical Biotechnology Centre (CBC) with the aim of improving the UK’s ability to develop and manufacture cell and gene therapies. A £9.3 million ($11 million) grant is being used to build the facility in Bristol where therapies for currently incurable diseases, such as some forms of cancer, sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis can be manufactured. Personalised medicines will also be developed at the centre.

In an email to Pharmaceutical Technology, an NHSBT spokesperson said the centre will “support early phase clinical trials and preclinical work, providing a route to eventual commercial scale production”. The representative expected the facility to open more treatment opportunities for UK citizens saying, “It will help give patients quick access to the latest treatments by increasing the number of UK patients with incurable diseases who are able to take part in clinical trials and bring new treatments into the NHS faster.”

This is important due to the UK’s currently limited short-scale manufacturing capacity. The NHSBT representative explained that a lack of manufacturing spaces led to delays in production slots for many gene therapy developers. In the past, researchers have often had to seek help from outside the UK, thus delaying clinical trials and patient access. The NHSBT hopes the CBC will increase the UK’s competitiveness within the market.

The opening of this new facility plays into the UK government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. The strategy, underlines one of the government’s goals of increasing the UK’s manufacturing capacity for DNA-based therapeutics. Operations at the CBC will focus on building plasmids, viral vectors and recombinant proteins for the production of cell and gene therapies.

This facility will join the NHSBT’s five other sites throughout the UK, which provide a combination of stem cell and immunotherapy support services, GMP cell therapy manufacturing services, and advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMP) storage and distribution. The representative said NHSBT plans to continue increasing manufacturing capacity in this way and said, “We are actively pursuing collaborations with external partners.”

In a statement released along with the centre’s launch, Steve Barclay, the UK’s Health and Social Care Secretary said, “The investment in this new centre will continue to develop this area of research and help provide patients the best possible care”. Dr Lilian Hook, NHSBT’s Director of Cell, Apheresis and Gene Therapies affirmed this sentiment saying, “This will enable cutting edge research with the potential to develop cures for some critical diseases which can currently only be treated and often ultimately prove fatal. We’ll be supporting delivery of these curative treatments into the NHS, so patients can access them more quickly”.

Cell & Gene Therapy coverage on Pharmaceutical Technology is supported by Cytiva.

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