DDW’s Megan Thomas caught up with George White, General Manager, Product Management, Cell & Gene Therapy at Cytiva, to learn more about the company’s insight into the CGT market.
Key challenges for cell and gene therapies
In order for cell and gene (CGT) therapies to succeed, George White identifies several challenges to overcome. He says that despite the successes, particularly in certain blood cancers, major improvements are still required to reduce the cost of goods and improve the robustness of processes. He says: “One of the key areas we need to build upon is understanding the future roadmaps of where the therapies are heading. There’s a lot of technology and innovation coming into this space.”
White also highlights challenges in the workforce, skill sets, the cost of manufacture and the robustness of supply chains. He explains: “We want to enable greater access to patients. As treatments progress from third to second and then front-line treatment, this would be facilitated by changes in the healthcare system to increase access to therapies when they are prescribed, meaning that awareness of these important but oft-limited availability therapies must increase beyond the specialist treatment centres.”
White sees opportunity: “Agility is needed. We’re seeing a drive towards the allogeneic market with more progressing into clinical trials. Previously, there were a lot of the primary cell-based allogeneic therapies. Now, we are seeing through trials that a large proportion, if not more than half, are induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) derived, which is a huge leap towards off-the-shelf products. Beyond 2023, I think we’ll continue to see more innovations driven by improvements in gene editing and biological understanding.”
Another opportunity White sees is shortened processes with autologous therapies. The goal is to provide flexible solutions that enable those types of developments. He says: “A key focus is to reduce the workload and resourcing required in the adoption of technology. The opportunity is there for developers willing to adopt these fit-for-purpose technologies and digital solutions, which are beginning to accelerate the progress of their clinical programmes rather than doing what should effectively be our job – to build the platforms.”
Currently, skill sets are one of the general challenges in the life sciences. White says dependence on highly skilled operators is because historically, tools have not been fit-for-purpose, and there has not been enough automation. As a result, there are many manual handling steps plus the need for skilled interpretation. White says that’s not going away soon, but will improve as we incorporate technologies to increase automation and controls.
He adds: “I don’t think the need for high tech skills will ever go away in such an agile, innovative field – you’re always going to have those earlier phases that are pushing the boundary. We’ve invested in training. CELLT1 is a course that we do in person and online and we’ve partnered with a world-renowned training organisation, NIBRT in Dublin, to ensure we can support customers in upskilling workforces. That’s going to remain important as we build this industry and take some of that training burden off younger companies, who are trying to do everything. We need them focusing on creating therapies.”
White emphasises the importance of looking at the transformative nature of existing patient outcomes. He says: “There’s extreme potential within the emerging therapies and if we do our part to help expand capabilities and overcome challenges, then oncologists, clinicians and other types of physicians can harness the immune system and keep us all healthy.”
He believes that if we solve these challenges, financing and innovation will follow. “It’s working, and there is still so much to learn. With more understanding comes more potential.”
DDW Volume 24 – Issue 1, Winter 2022/23 – Cell and Gene Therapy Guide
George White is the General Manager, Product Management, Cell & Gene Therapy at Cytiva. He studied genetics at the University of Newcastle (UK) and has held commercial roles for more than 15 years, supporting customers in research and the translation of therapies to clinical and commercial production.