Cutting-edge stem cell and gene therapy centre in Stevenage gets £12 million funding boost

PUBLISHED: 18:08 31 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:47 01 September 2017

The Gene and Cell Therapy Catapult is due to open in Autumn 2017. Picture: Daniel Buman

The Gene and Cell Therapy Catapult is due to open in Autumn 2017. Picture: Daniel Buman

daniel burman

A world-class research facility due to open in Stevenage has just received a £12 million boost.

The facility in Stevenage will be at the forefront of gene and cell therapy research. Picture: Daniel BumanThe facility in Stevenage will be at the forefront of gene and cell therapy research. Picture: Daniel Buman

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult is making its home at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus in Gunnels Wood Road, and is due to open in autumn 2017.

Now an extra £12 million in government funds will go towards fitting out the building’s second floor.

The centre had already attracted £55 million of funding in 2014 from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy).

The extra funds will double the centre’s capacity – and at full capacity it is predicted to bring £1.2 billion in revenue by 2020.

Chief executive officer Keith Thompson explained to the Comet that Stevenage was a good fit for the site, with the town’s closeness to airports as well as the presence of other scientific expertise all big positives.

“We went through a very rigorous search across the UK for our site,” said Mr Thompson.

“There’s a strong pedigree of pharmaceuticals around the area.”

The Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult has a mission to accelerate the UK’s cell therapy industry and to make Stevenage an industry world leader.

Stevenage’s workforce also stands to benefit, with the potential creation of around 180 support jobs.

Miranda Knaggs, the interim chief executive officer at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst said: “The £12m investment in the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Centre on the Stevenage campus is great news for the Catapult and SBC. It recognises the potential of the campus to be a world leader in the generation of cell and gene therapies for the treatment of serious diseases. We expect more companies to be located here as a result, with local economic benefit and job creation.”

Currently, one problem holding up cell research globally is the low availability of the large numbers of cells needed to perform large-scale clinical trials.

The 7,200-square-metre facility will allow UK businesses that are developing new cell therapy treatments to use its labs to manufacture cells for clinical trials at a large scale.

Cell and gene therapies are showing potential worldwide to combat numerous illnesses.

At the frontier of medical science, cell therapy is a technique which involves the injection of living cells into the human body in order to repair the direct causes of genetic diseases.

For example, the Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult played a large role in the creation of modified cells that are ‘trained’ to recognise a certain protein in leukaemia cells, and then attack and destroy the cancerous cells.

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