Australia’s first cell therapy manufacturing centre is bridging the gap between cell research in the lab through industry collaboration and cheaper materials.
CEO of the Cell Therapy Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CTM CRC) Sherry Kothari said it puts promise in what she believes is the future of medicine.
“One of the biggest advantages that cell therapy holds is that it has the potential to cure. So with drugs and pharmaceuticals you tend to manage and treat conditions but you can’t generally cure them,” Dr Kothari said.
CRC Partner the University of South Australia has a team currently working on a patch that will help cure chronic wounds.
Project Leader Dr Louise Smith said chronic wounds affect sufferers for years, and sometimes decades.
“One of the ways we’re looking at healing it is by delivering stem cells to the wound to try and help it heal,” Dr Smith said.
“So the stem cell will go into the wound and it will dampen down any immune response and any inflammatory response to try and get the wound into a state where the normal skin cells can take over the healing process.”
Chronic wounds are a burden to patients and healthcare systems as they are expensive and persistent, and without treatment can lead to extreme procedures such as amputation.
Around 450 000 Australians are affected by chronic wounds, while the US government spends an estimated $25 billion per year on treatments.
Dr Smith said the project would not have worked without the CRC pulling everything together.
“We wouldn’t have access to the specific cells, we wouldn’t have access to the companies that we’re working with, and we wouldn’t have access to the clinicians and the cleanroom facilities,” she said.
The CTM CRC takes a promising cell therapy, finds an appropriate industry partner and facilitates the therapy through the manufacturing process until it’s ready for use in patients.
Dr Kothari said academic researchers often struggle to source funding for their projects without industry partner collaboration.
“It’s what I and many others describe as the valley of death,” Dr Kothari said.
“You’ve got your academic research which stops at a certain point and then you’ve got the big companies, but often that research is still too early for them to invest in.”
Chair of the CRC’s board Dr Leanna Read said bringing down costs is crucial to the future of medicine.
“There’s always a pressure on medicine because the health system is getting more and more expensive,” Dr Read said.
“If you can bring down the costs of producing the cells you’ll be able to expand opportunities for use in clinical practice because they’ll be affordable in mainstream medicine.”
The Cell Therapy Manufacturing CRC is the only one of its kind in Australia and one in a small handful of facilities around the world.
In an effort to build up a global presence in the growing industry the centre has recently formed collaborations with two cell therapy and regenerative medicine institutions in Canada and the UK.
“We have a lot of intellectual capital and know-how here in Australia and South Australia,” Dr Kothari said.
“What we have here is this critical mass, the expertise, the know-how and the infrastructure, so we’ve got a real chance to make it work, to put South Australia on the world stage when it comes to the development of cell therapies.”
This story and the accompanying image originally appeared at The Lead South Australia. To see the original story, click here.