Consortium to automate cell therapy manufacturing welcomes Thermo Fisher and Charles River Labs – Endpoints News

The world of cell therapy manufacturing is filled with uncertainty and potential road hazards. Multiply Labs, a California pharma manufacturer, is trying to cut back on those issues by enabling the use of robotics, and Thursday, the company announced that it had two more heavy-hitters aboard.

Thermo Fisher Scientific and Charles River Laboratories are both joining the robotic cell therapy manufacturing Consortium that Multiply founded. The two are leaders in cell therapy manufacturing in their own right and will join a team rounded out by UCSF and Cytiva to develop a cGMP-compliant system that can make gene-modified cell therapies at an individual scale.

Thermo Fisher will contribute to the automation of incubator technology. The company’s Heracell Vios incubators are considered industry standards in cell therapy manufacturing. Meanwhile, Charles River will work on the automation of quality control testing. Its Celsis rapid microbial detection platform can shorten the final release testing of cell therapy products to three days, as opposed to the more typical two weeks that come with the traditional methods.

In a statement, Multiply CEO Fred Parietti said:

This alliance brings together the global leaders in cell therapy manufacturing technologies, with the common goal of pioneering the deployment of robotic technology and achieving truly industrial scale. We are very excited to combine Multiply Labs’ cutting-edge expertise in cloud-controlled robotics with the GMP-ready, market-leading instrumentation technologies by Cytiva, Thermo Fisher and Charles River.

Cytiva’s focus in the project revolves around the automation of bioreactor technology, as its tech is currently used in CAR-T cell therapy manufacturing.

By automating, Multiply aims to cut back on the number of major bottlenecks. In a February feature, MIT Technology Review described the process of a robotic arm moving trays of drug capsules from station to station in precise movements. At that time, the robots were making drug substance for use in clinical trials. But Parietti told the publication that the company is determined to catch the early wave of efficient cell therapy manufacturing. It’s an area that companies are still trying to figure out.

The consortium was started in 2021, with the goal of accelerating the scaling of cell therapies through robotics. Parietti came to the US from Italy in 2011 to pursue a PhD in robotics at MIT, and cofounder Alice Melocchi came over from Italy to study chemical engineering.

There are no humans inside of the cluster, Parietti told Fierce Pharma last year. Instead, cube models make up a space nine feet tall and are controlled by cloud-based software. Automation will allow robots and software to take over the jobs of skilled researchers, who require hours of training and spend even more hours carrying out the process with fine attention to detail. The automation of manufacturing living drugs would radically shake up the entire industry, and address labor shortages that have plagued not just pharma and biotech, but industries everywhere.

Bottlenecks are the most common hurdles for cell and gene therapy developers, according to a Catalent report titled Allogeneic and Autologous Cell Therapies Report 2022. Geopolitical concerns, a short rise in the cost of materials and staffing issues coming from Covid-19 have all contributed to the industry’s troubles.

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