The Medical Research Council (MRC) and LifeArc are making £16m available to establish a network of Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs, providing access to clinical grade viral vector and translational support for early phase academic-led gene therapy clinical trials.
The funding is provided through grants of up to 5-years, to create a diverse network of centrally coordinated and complementary gene therapy facilities in the UK. These hubs aim to amplify the discoveries of academic researchers, harnessing the capabilities, materials and resources that are essential to progressing innovative research towards patient trials.
MRC and LifeArc will provide funding to UK-based research organisations and/or businesses that will:
- Provide academics with access to GMP grade viral vector production capability for early phase clinical trials
- Support translation of gene therapy projects from the academic lab into early clinical trials
- Support skilled staff to coordinate innovative manufacturing research, drive generation of reproducible and shareable platforms and to enable dissemination of know-how and skilled personnel across a network of centres
- Design and share commercially ready platforms, using common cell-lines, plasmids and reagents, to facilitate the transition between small scale ‘academic’ supply for phase I/II trials through to larger-scale downstream supply
- Train and retain expert staff, growing the talent pool to fill the new high-value jobs which will be created and required by SMEs and industry.
Funded centres will form part of a centrally organised network to facilitate coordinated project selection, skills and training activities and engagement with the wider vector manufacturing and gene therapy communities.
Grants will pay for, but are not limited to, key staff posts and infrastructure costs. It is expected that applications may be of a range of sizes, ranging from smaller awards of £1-2m to repurpose or import additional platforms to existing facilities, to larger scale investment of £5-7m in new or expanded infrastructure. LifeArc and the MRC will not seek any financial return on these grants.
Funded centres are being identified as part of a three-stage process managed by LifeArc and the MRC.
1. Expressions of interest
Expressions of interest were invited from scientists by 1 June 2020.
2. Launch of call
Successful applicants were invited to a compulsory online workshop on 23 June 2020. The workshop outlined the scope and ambition of this initiative, and provided information on LifeArc’s translational advice service, which is available to funded Innovation Hubs. Applicants had the opportunity to ask questions and have 1:1 feedback on their expressions of interest.
3. Submissions of applications
The submission deadline for full proposals was September 2020. All applications underwent UK and international peer review from scientific experts.Shortlisted applicants were invited to present to an expert panel in November.
For enquiries, please contact the Viral Vector team at LifeArc and the MRC.