As Director of Cellular Therapy & Biobanking at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Mark Lowdell is at the cutting edge of cellular therapies, genetically modified cell therapies and 3D tissue engineering therapies. With the industry changing at such a rapid rate, many researchers’ focus is changing year on year, and for Dr Lowdell it is no different.
He explains that genetically modified cells, induced pluripotent stem cells and “of course the explosion in gene modified immunotherapies – the CAR T-cells” are new areas of research he wasn’t looking at a year ago. However, the major change has been “a switch in commercialization which wasn’t quite there a year ago and it’s being driven really by the CAR T phenomenon”.
Indeed it is innovation in CAR T-cells that Dr Lowdell is most excited by, highlighting that “five years ago if you’d said to any big pharma company: “You’re going to be working in patient specific autologous medicines”, I think they would have laughed at you”.
“For the first time ever, for these cell therapies, the hospital where the patient gets treated has to be part of the manufacturing process, because you have to take the cells from the patient,” he adds.
However, Dr Lowdell argues there is still a long way to go, with the ever complex issue of scaling up at the forefront of his mind: “The manufacturing of most of these products really hasn’t been optimised for treating 10,000 patients a year…There’s a big gap in understanding of what a company does when it makes batches of a single product that will treat 10,000 people, and a single product that will treat one person”.
Visit the Cell Therapy Manufacturing and Gene Therapy Congress website for discussion on similar issues and updates on this year’s event being held from 30th November to 1st December in Brussels.