GE Healthcare and UMMS boost viral vector manufacturing

December 16, 2019

The new large-scale viral vector manufacturing facility, to be housed on the UMMS Worcester campus, will occupy 3,220 square feet and will be operational in 2020.
UMass Medical School and GE Healthcare Life Sciences will establish a new large-scale viral vector manufacturing facility, able to provide large quantities of high-quality recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for preclinical research. The facility will be housed on the Worcester campus of UMMS.

Preclinical research capabilities are limited due to a lack of large-scale vector manufacturing facilities. Researchers often have to wait 12 to 24 months to secure enough vectors for their research.

This large scale AAV manufacturing facility will alleviate the bottlenecks that delay the start of preclinical research. Additionally, researchers will have access to GE Healthcare’s processing equipment and the assistance of professional staff at the facility helping to get their research to the clinic faster.

“The potential of gene therapy to treat human disease has finally become a reality,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine and professor of pediatrics. “However, the ability to move the field forward to treat additional serious diseases remains limited by the efficiency and flexibility of producing gene therapy vectors suitable for testing in new disease models. Our partnership with GE Healthcare addresses this critical challenge. The strength of this academic-industry collaboration between two of the commonwealth’s leaders in this field gives us a great deal of optimism that we will overcome this challenge.”

“Accelerating research that brings novel cell and gene therapies to patients is the mission of our business,” said Catarina Flyborg, general manager of cell and gene therapy, GE Healthcare Life Sciences. “By partnering with UMass Medical School to create this large scale AAV manufacturing facility, we will provide researchers with the tools and AAV needed for preclinical research that will advance the cell and gene therapy industry and get therapies to patients faster.”

The facility will be 3,220 square feet and feature a good laboratory practice (GLP) viral vector FlexFactory. Four to six professional staff will manage the day-to-day operation and the facility will be fully operational in 2020. Sylvain Cecchini, PhD, associate professor of microbiology & physiological systems, will be the core director.

An innovative aspect of the GE partnership will be the availability of the manufacturing facility for external clients, maximizing the benefits to the research and development community and generating revenue to support the facility. UMMS has 50 shared research core facilities, which generate $24 million a year in revenues, with more than $9 million coming from external clients. The external customer base includes other academic institutions, biotech start-ups and established pharma companies. UMMS also participates in a five-campus consortium which uses state vouchers to help small Massachusetts companies access research technology, a program that generated more than $4 million in income across the university last year.

GE Healthcare Life Sciences helps innovators, researchers and health care providers accelerate how precision diagnostics and therapies are invented, made and used, with products that enable biological analysis, research, development and the manufacture of advanced therapies and vaccines.