Multi-million pound award aims to create new breakthrough therapies

A health consortium has been awarded £7 million by Innovate UK to ensure more patients benefit from a new generation of breakthrough therapies.

A recently-formed health consortium, jointly led by the National Institute for Health Research Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR Birmingham BRC) and NHS Wales, has been awarded £7 million by Innovate UK to ensure more patients benefit from a new generation of breakthrough therapies.   

The Midlands & Wales Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre (MW-ATTC) will operate from four centres: University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Nottingham University Hospital. 

The Midlands-Wales collaborative is one of only three centres in Britain awarded funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, to develop an advanced therapy treatment centre. 

The NIHR Birmingham BRC is a partnership between University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham, and has a long-standing track record in cell therapy innovation and translation. NHS Wales will be joint lead for this centre though the Welsh Blood Service, Velindre NHS Trust. 

Its vision is to enable UK Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product (ATMP) companies to reach the clinical market while building clinical capacity across the UK to benefit patient outcomes. 

ATMPs, which can be cell or gene therapies, show great potential in treating patients with conditions that cannot be cured with current treatments. These include arthritis, liver disease, several types of cancer, and diabetic ulcers. 

Access to breakthrough medicines

Professor Philip Newsome, Director of the Midlands-Wales Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Liver Research and Honorary Consultant Hepatologist at UHB, said: “The anticipated Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre outputs will ultimately give patients with challenging illnesses access to breakthrough medicines. 

“We will demonstrate that the UK is an excellent location for advanced therapy medicinal product research and development by working together for patients and innovators, to reinforce the UK's position as a world leader in this important field.” 

ATMPs are just beginning to be available, with the UK playing a leading role. However, even when new ATMP therapies are developed and shown to be effective, there are major challenges in rolling them out to patients. The MW-ATTC will address these challenges. 

Catherine O’Brien, Director of the Welsh Blood Service and consortium lead for NHS Wales said: “The programme will cover aspects of advanced therapy development, deployment and practical consideration for the pathway, from diagnosis to delivery of treatments in a clinical setting. The collaborative brings together a wide range of expertise to deliver these developments in routine clinical practice.” 

The combined expertise of the project’s industrialists, clinicians, academics and computer system experts will work with major teaching hospitals across the Midlands and Wales, reaching almost 15 million people and providing a unique opportunity to set up cell therapy to succeed. 

National implications

The MW-ATTC project will last for three years and is funded by a total of £9 million, with an additional £2 million from further revenues on top of the £7 investment from Innovate UK.  

Collaborations in Leeds/Newcastle/Edinburgh – the Northern Alliance – and a Manchester group (iMatch), will also be establishing advanced therapies treatment centres at the same time and, together with the Midlands-Wales consortium, will ensure the project benefits are implemented nationally as part of the bid requirements. The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult will play a co-ordination role for the network and provide support to the network.    

The partners in the Midlands-Wales consortium all have specific expertise in different aspects of delivering advanced therapies. They are Asymptote Limited (part of GE Healthcare), Thermo Electron Limited, Trakcel Limited, Cellular Therapeutics Ltd, Rexgenero Limited, NHS Blood and Transplant, World Courier (UK) Limited, Cell Medica Limited, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Miltenyi Biotec Limited and Orbsen Therapeutics UK Ltd. 

The network co-ordinated by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult will increase the capacity of the NHS to deliver these disruptive medicines by developing systems and processes within the trusts and hospitals capable of delivering advanced therapies to patients. We plan to share the learnings and systems from the network to other centres in the UK. Once established, the systems could potentially be rolled out as a global model for the adoption of advanced therapies. 

The potential commercial and economic value of this sector is large with estimates that it could generate £10bn in revenue for the UK and 18,000 industry jobs by 2035. Locally over the next five years, we expect the project to create 175 high value jobs in industry and within the NHS, and our industrialist partners will develop new therapies, products, services fit for deployment across the NHS.

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