UK health service opens facility to develop and produce cell and gene therapies

The U.K.’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which manages blood and platelet donations plus organ, stem cell and tissue transplants in the country, opened a new clinical biotech center to help boost the U.K.’s capacity to make DNA plasmids and viral vectors.

The facility, which is located in Filton in North Bristol, is part of an effort to overcome the country’s limited capacity to manufacture the materials needed for gene therapies and genetically modified cell therapies, the agency said in a March 10 release. The site will also support early-phase clinical trials and preclinical work.

“This will enable cutting edge research with the potential to develop cures for some critical diseases which can currently only be treated and often ultimately prove fatal,” Lilian Hook, Ph.D., NHSBT’s director of cell, apheresis and gene therapies, said in a statement. 

The site was constructed with the help of a 10 million pound sterling ($10.7 million) government grant.

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic that hit in early 2020, demand for new and innovative cell and gene therapies has exploded, triggering a need for more cell therapy production facilities.

Before that, the U.K. government in 2012 formed the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in response to the dwindling number of pharmaceutical manufacturing sites in the country. In 2015, the group announced it was building an $85 million cell manufacturing facility to boost biotech capabilities in the country. The NHSBT site is unrelated to that program.