Harvard and MIT are teaming up with G.E., Fujifilm, and five of the region's research hospitals to build a new $50 million center for developing new genetic and cell therapies.
The institutions will work together at the new center to make breakthroughs in immunotherapy, cell therapies, gene editing, and other technologies, and will manufacture new experimental therapies on site for use in clinical trials.
"It is designed to address a gap that we've heard is the most important gap in our region over and over again. — that is how to support early stage research in biological therapies," said Harvard Provost Alan Garber. He said advances in treatment are being delayed by a lack of facilities able to move new ideas from the lab into experimental therapies.
"When they develop an exciting new insight, it's very hard for them to then take it to the point where they can expand it enough and manufacture enough, particularly of a biological agent or a cell to be actually tested in humans," he added. "And it's not solely a matter of quantity. It's also a matter of meeting FDA standards for being eligible to be tested in humans."
Garber said scientists often wait as long as 18 months for essential products they need to carry out research. This center is designed to eliminate that backlog.
"We haven't had a place to easily work with others on translating and breaking some of those critical bottlenecks from an idea at the academic bench to something that can be translated and influence the patient," said Krystyn Van Vliet, MIT associate provost. "So this facility really gives not just MIT that capacity, but all of us that capacity to work together and 'de-risk' some of these new therapeutic technologies. And not just the therapeutics, but also how they're manufactured."
"How we make the medicines better, not just how we make better medicines — that is what this facility can really enable," Van Vliet said. "And that goes for making drugs more quickly, making drugs more safely, making drugs that can actually move through regulatory review to make impact on patients much sooner."
The new center, which doesn't have a name yet, will be located in the Greater Boston area, and officials say they hope it will be operating by the end of 2021. Leaders from Harvard, MIT, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. will serve on the center's board of directors.
The participating hospitals are Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital.
The healthcare technology company MilliporeSigma is also part of the collaboration.
The center is expected to receive state funding, but officials from MIT and Harvard say the details of that public investment haven't been finalized.
"One of our objectives is to make sure ... we get the latest kind of ideas and combine our innovation with the academic innovation to make sure that we are potentially developing the right tools for the right new therapy and making the therapy safer and more robust, more reproducible," said Emmanuel Ligner, chief executive officer and president of GE Healthcare Life Sciences.