Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Stem Cell 'Teething Problems' -- Pricing to Manufacturing, the European View

From Europe this morning comes a perspective on the "three obstacles" that are blocking cell therapy from the mainstream.

It is a subject, of course, that resonates in the United States and particularly in California, where the $3 billion state stem cell agency is running out of cash and needs a boost.

The article appeared on Labiotech, which bills itself as "leading digital media covering the European biotech industry." Written by Helen Albert, the piece actually lists more than a trio of "teething problems" for the stem cell industry. They are:

  • "A reliable, consistent and scalable manufacturing system" 
  • "Excessively high pricing"
  • Safety, regulation and a knowledgeable workforce
Albert interviewed a number of industry executives in Europe. She also mentioned Orchard Therapeutics, which has a tie to California.  It has received an $8.5 million award from the state stem cell agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The United States is ahead of the game on regulation, according to the folks in Europe. Albert wrote, 
"The US regulators are currently in the lead when it comes to keeping up with the research and being open to changing their processes, according to (Alan O’Connell, partner at Irish life sciences VC Seroba). Although he says Europe is not too far behind. 'Certainly, the EMA (European Medicines Agency) is responding, but from my perspective, the FDA is taking the lead, at least currently.'"
The Albert piece said, 
"With the first CAR T-cell therapies (technically a combination of gene and cell therapy) to treat blood cancers gaining US and European approval last year and global investment of over €6.7B in cell therapy in 2018, the question on everyone’s lips is ‘is cell therapy about to hit the big time?’"
Labiotech's answer? "2019 certainly appears to be the start, if not the end, of cell therapy’s move to the big time."

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