On Thursday 15 March, MedCity hosted an NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Showcase, looking at the cell and gene therapy expertise of the eight BRCs in the Golden Triangle and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.

Formed through partnerships between England’s leading NHS organisations and universities, the NIHR BRCs conduct translational research to transform scientific breakthroughs into life-saving treatments for patients. Staffed by expert investigators and clinicians, they are leaders in translating lab-based discoveries into new cutting edge treatments, technologies, diagnostics and other interventions in clinical settings.

The aims of NIHR BRCs are to:

  • drive innovation in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ill-health
  • translate advances in biomedical research into benefits for patients
  • provide a key component of the NHS contribution to our nation’s international competitiveness by making the best Centres even better.

The day started with an overview of MedCity’s role in positioning the Golden Triangle of Cambridge, London and Oxford as world leaders in life sciences, by Simon Howell, MedCity Grant Holder. As part of its aim to turn innovations into commercial products, MedCity supports industry to navigate the region’s infrastructure.

The UK leads the way in ATMP clinical trial participation, ahead of Harvard, UPenn, and France. For companies developing new medicines, devices and products, one of London’s major selling points is its capacity to support early engagement, collaborative research and wide-ranging, robust clinical trials.

Louise Knowles, Head of Research Policy at the NIHR, discussed the role of the NIHR in the innovation pathway, from invention to evaluation, to adoption and diffusion, and the organisations that can support companies along the way. The NIHR provides cutting-edge research facilities, expert support, signposting to finance, and cohorts of patients suitable for research. Formed through partnerships between England’s leading NHS organisations and universities, the 20 NIHR BRCs specialise in different research themes including cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health. In late 2016, the BRCs received a 5-year government funding package totalling £816m – the largest ever investment into health research – for research into mental health, dementia, deafness and hearing and antimicrobial resistance.

Matthew Durdy, Chief Business Officer at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, discussed the Innovate UK supported organisation’s aim to drive the growth of the industry by helping cell and gene therapy organisations across the world to translate early-stage research into commercially viable and investable therapies. They have over 120 cell and gene therapy experts, state-of-the art development and viral vector laboratories and are currently building a £55m large-scale GMP manufacturing centre to help bring cell and gene therapies to market in the UK and internationally.

Cell and gene therapy has the potential to revolutionise medicine, from cell plasticity and genome editing to cell immobilisation and 3D printing, cell and gene therapy has had a hand in this. From 2013 – 17, their £500m investment has supported 53 companies to advance their products and 8 new companies to spin-out.

A panel discussion involving UCLPartners, Orchard Therapeutics, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Autolus and Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult discussed the different perspectives in commercialising cell and gene therapies. The benefits of spinning out vs licensing products to big pharma was discussed, with Bobby Gaspar and Ludovic Vallier claiming they had more influence, quicker decision making and freedom to design and develop outside of corporate restraints. Professor Emma Morris praised the BRCs’ commitment to experimental medicine, by funding senior technicians to undertake specific research, supporting spinouts to deliver impact to patients. Matthew Durdy explained the role of IP in the development process and the importance of creating a target product profile as early as possible, to get your product ready for market.

Watch the individual talks here

Download the Powerpoint presentations here


Accelerating translation of the academic pipeline

The UCL Translational Research Office and UCL Business outlined the ways in which they support translation and commercialisation of cell and gene therapy including successful case studies.

Oncolytic viruses as a new gene therapy – an example of taking a novel approach from the laboratory into the clinic

This masterclass by Professor Alan Melcher, Professor of Translational Immunology and Honorary Consultant Oncologist at The Royal Marsden Hospital, looked at the science underlying the potential of oncolytic viruses as an exciting novel form of gene immunotherapy, and how these agents are starting to impact as deliverable new treatments within the clinical landscape’.

From Idea to Adoption – the NIHR Innovation Pathway

The NIHR’s Clare Woods, Business Development Manager, and Ginette Hoare, Industry Operations Manager, explored the many ways that the NIHR is supporting industry to deliver early phase translational research in the NHS, through research funding, access to expertise and study support.

The importance of early planning for ATMP reimbursement

Given the high cost of cell and gene therapies and the commercial risks they face, certain health-economic activities should be undertaken prior to starting clinical development. Panos Kefalas, Head of Health Economics and Market Access at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, explained why it is important to conduct these activities, what they entail and the benefits they deliver in securing commercial viability.

For more information on the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres you can read their bios in this MedCity directory: [direct to website]

Find out more and get in touch with the BRCs here:

Thank you to everyone who came to the event and if you have any questions please get in touch with Kim Watson, Communications Manager at kimwatson@medcityhq.com