Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst lead sponsor and host for sell-out Advanced Therapies Integrates conference at GSK on 30 November.
Advanced Therapies Integrates conference came to Stevenage for the first time to see at first hand how the location is driving growth and accelerating commercialisation.
Over 200 delegates from across the Advanced Therapies and Medicinal Products (ATMP) Industry supply chain heard how Stevenage has quickly established itself as a leading life science cluster with a world-recognised specialism in cell and gene therapies.
During a packed day of fireside chats, panel discussions, tours and networking organised by Life Science Integrates, delegates explored some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the sector and what needs to happen next to ensure potentially life-saving and life-enhancing therapies can reach more people.
Opening the conference in GSK on 30 November, Dr Sally Ann Forsyth OBE, CEO, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC), set out the key ingredients for the Stevenage cluster’s success and how the supportive environment is nurturing growth.
Over the past 11 years, Stevenage has quickly established itself as a life science cluster with a world-leading specialism in cell and gene thanks to the unique co-location of pharma and manufacturing and a thriving start-up community at SBC.
Wrapped around this is targeted support at each growth stage with access to specialist facilities from shared lab spaces offered free of charge for early-stage companies right through to later stage GMP facilities at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Centre; training and mentoring and access to finance.
This successful business model has resulted in companies at SBC raising more than £3bn in finance, putting Stevenage on a par with the levels of private equity investment raised in Cambridge, Oxford and London, and the average deal size in Stevenage more than five times greater than the other clusters.
However, Dr Sally Ann Forsyth warned, there remained a significant gap in the innovation supply chain which its plans for a Centre for Commercialisation could help fill.
Dr Forsyth said: “We heard in the Autumn Statement how the Government recognised the value of life sciences to the economy by investing an additional £520m in life sciences manufacturing together with a raft of financial incentives. This is hugely welcome, but although the UK produces some of the best research in the world there is still a major challenge to translate and commercialise these innovations.
Our aim is to build on our successful scale-up model by developing plans for a Centre for Commercialisation that could potentially reap further health benefits and deliver even greater economic return for the UK.”
This people-first approach to science continued when Nicola Redfern, consultant, NJ Redfern Ltd, facilitated a conversation between Samantha Barber, Chief Executive, Gene People, and Neil Watson, Co-Director, Northern Alliance Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre, on how best to get cell and gene therapies to those who need them most.
There was a strong emphasis on data collection and sharing, to address issues of scale to give more people with genetic conditions access to treatments that can not prolong life but improve the quality of daily living.
During the second fireside chat, Matthew Durdy, CEO, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, interviewed Robert Panting, General Manager ATMP, Rentschler Biopharma on the current and future trends of Contract Development and Manufacturing market.
Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, then facilitated a panel discussion looking at how the UK model of science parks delivers both the expertise and facilities to support innovation.
Tom Pike, Deputy CEO and Strategic Director, Stevenage Borough Council, said there were three elements that local stakeholders can do to help unlock growth: pace to provide the right space at the right time; people by providing access to local and wider talent pools, and passion from a range of local partners all committed to making the cluster grow.
Ellie Junod, Investment Manager, Life Sciences, UBS, set out why they had chosen to invest in Stevenage: the opportunity of scale with available land to develop the Elevate Quarter - providing 1.6m sq.ft of offices, labs and GMP alongside the 45 plus existing organisations already innovating on campus.
Katy Newton, Senior Vice President immunology and Process Development, Achilles Therapeutics, and Ketki Vispute, Associate Director, CAR-T manufacturing and Operations, Autolus, then talked about innovation pathways from early stage to Autolus setting up its 83,000 sq.ft. HQ and GMP advanced manufacturing facility in Stevenage town centre for T cell programming technologies to eradicate cancer cells.
Further sessions after lunch included a lively debate on addressing the skills supply to meet the predicted 100% rise in UK advanced therapy and bioprocessing workforce and an ATMP plan of action.
Dr Anji Miller, Skills Lead at LifeArc, explained that an understanding of commericalisation needs to be instilled in tandem with science education earlier: "Business skills and the concept of innovation should be taught as part of the curriculum at schools and universities. To help bring life-changing science to market, we need Science graduates with knowledge of business concepts and leadership."
With tours of Cytiva's labs in SBC and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult’s Skills and Training Labs and new Process Analytical Technologies Lab in Sycamore House, the event showcased how the Stevenage ecosystem is ideally positioned for the scale-up and translation of cutting edge therapeutics.
Samuel Thangiah, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Life Science Integrates, said: “Today was a huge success. It was a really engaged audience from across the whole ATMP space and it cemented the potential to make this an annual event in Stevenage.”
For the full event synopsis from Life Science Integrates, click here.