MedCity has created an advanced therapies network to connect industry to academia. The initiative is seeking to build on the progress of British cell and gene therapy university spinouts such as Autolus and Orchard Therapeutics.
Advanced therapies—a catch-all term for gene, cell and tissue products—have emerged as a strength of the British life sciences sector in recent years. Fueled by research at academic institutions and the support of the Cell and Gene Therapy (CGT) Catapult, U.K. biotech startups have established themselves at the forefront of some of the hottest areas of drug development.
Now, MedCity has set up Advanced Therapies Network to connect academics, investors and industry professionals involved in the development of cell, gene and tissue-based treatments.
“The aim of the network is to bring together our leading universities and research institutes with innovative companies, to share ideas and successes, and ultimately, accelerate discoveries in this revolutionary area of life sciences,” MedCity CEO Sarah Haywood said in a statement.
Haywood and her MedCity colleagues are running the initiative in conjunction with King’s College London, Imperial College London, and University College London. The three academic institutions established MedCity itself in collaboration with the Mayor of London in 2014.
MedCity is officially unveiling the network at an event in London Thursday, where researchers from the three London institutions will discuss their work and Orchard will outline how multiple academic alliances helped it grow into a global gene therapy biotech. Orchard raised $225 million in an IPO this week. In conjunction with the event, MedCity is opening up membership of the network.
The network is part of a broader effort in the U.K. to build on its early advanced therapy successes. In the past year, King’s College London, which struck a gene therapy deal with Pfizer in 2016, has laid out plans to create an advanced therapies center. And the CGT Catapult has secured funding to set up a network of advanced therapy treatment centers.
CGT Catapult is setting up the treatment centers to expand access to advanced therapies by tackling some of the supply chain issues. The supply chains created through the initiative could support the running of advanced therapy trials in the U.K. and distribution of commercial products.
With the U.K. having a track record of refusing to pay for expensive drugs—and potentially facing financial problems if Brexit goes badly—the focus on the commercial side is necessary if Britain is to be both a developer and buyer of advanced therapies.