Back to school: GE and UMass partner on academic viral vector plant

GE Healthcare has partnered with UMass to establish a viral vector manufacturing facility – its latest tie-in with academia in the cell and gene therapy space.

The planned facility at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School’s Worcester campus will provide recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for preclinical research.

High demand and a shortage of capabilities for viral vectors means the 3,220 square-foot facility, decked out with GE Healthcare’s viral vector FlexFactory platform, will help alleviate the current wait researchers have in procuring material, GE Healthcare Life Sciences told us.

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“The requirement for virus in preclinical, large primate studies is roughly 30 times the amount needed for small animal studies, so UMMS [University of Massachusetts Medical School] and GE decided to collaborate to bring that amount of virus to industry more cost effectively,” said Catarina Flyborg, general manager, Cell and Gene Therapy, GE Healthcare Life Sciences.

“The supply of AAV will support both Academic and Industry needs and is not just limited to researchers at UMMS.”

Once fully operational in 2020, the capacity at the site will be 8-10 campaigns per year, she added.

Financial details have not been disclosed but Bioprocess Insider was told GE Healthcare has made a multi-million dollar investment into the space.

Academic ambitions

This collaboration comes weeks after GE Healthcare joined a consortium led by Harvard University and including MIT aimed at setting up a manufacturing center in the Boston metro area. Again, the planned facility aims to alleviate bottlenecks and reduce viral vector backlogs.

The partnership with UMass is only related to the Harvard consortium “in the fact that our strategy is to bring new therapies safely and efficaciously to market, where they become life-changing options for all who need it,” Flyborg said. “Our aim is to help companies do so, enhancing speed to market, industrializing processes, expanding access, and reducing costs. Both of these initiatives support that goal.”

But both partnerships form part of GE’s strategy in teaming with academic institutions in the cell and gene therapy space, she added.

“It is important as academia is a critical partner in the cell and gene therapy ecosystem, bringing talent, know how; infrastructure; access to pre-clinical data and patients to the ecosystem. We are always looking and evaluating opportunities that move the industry forward.”

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