Launch of Centre for Advanced Cell Therapy (ACT)

Cell and gene therapy form two of the most dynamic research areas world-wide and provide fundamentally new therapies for diseases without available treatment. Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs) typically target the underlying biology of the disease rather than the symptoms and therefore offer the possibility of cure. The development of new cell and gene therapies is spearheaded by the unprecedented clinical success of cancer immunotherapy, such as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy for B cell malignancies. In parallel, new advances in stem cell biology, including the possibility for differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), and of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) reprogrammed from somatic cells, open up new possibilities to regenerate cells and tissues for the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes as well as various organ failures, including liver diseases. However, clinical-grade cell engineering and manufacturing represents a key bottleneck for the development of new cell and gene therapies.

The academic leadership at ICR and the Department of Cancer Immunology has, together with the leadership at the OUH-CCC and the Department of Oncology and Section for Cell Therapy, outlined a path to restructure the cell therapy unit at OUH to meet the demands of the future and ensure that Norway stays at the international forefront in the development of cell and gene therapies. This effort has moreover been strengthened by the formation of a strategic research area in cell therapy at OUH (StratCell).

Critical contribution from a private donor consortium

A donor consortium consisting of Svanhild and Arne Must´s Foundation for Medical Research (lead donor), RADFORSK oncology research fund and the Norwegian Cancer Society, has committed 50 MNOK to form a Centre for Advanced Cell therapy (ACT Centre) located in clean room facilities at the OUH. The investment is dedicated to the establishment of a center that will provide a new national service for the manufacturing of genetically engineered cells for therapy, under full-scale good manufacturing practices (GMP). The center will moreover include existing local competence in cell differentiation and manufacturing for production of other ATMPs to OUH.