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18 March 2021

King's to host new gene therapy hub as part of new £18m network

King’s College London has today been named as one of three major new Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs, as part of a new national network with total investments of £18m.


Funding from LifeArc and the Medical Research Council (MRC), with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will support the creation of three dedicated facilities to advance the clinical development of new genetic treatments, with potential to transform care for millions of patients including those with rare and life-threatening genetic diseases. The two other hubs will be at the NHS Blood and Transplant in Bristol and the University of Sheffield.

The King’s College London/Royal Free/UCL Hub will provide a comprehensive capability for clinical grade viral vector manufacturing. This will include both AAV and lentivirus production for early-phase trials, alongside substantial programmes in process innovation, knowledge transfer, and training to address critical skills shortages.

In partnership with the network of Innovation Hubs, our vision is to ensure that the UK capitalises on its outstanding academic medical research to deliver novel gene therapies to patients, providing transformative treatments for currently intractable conditions, and generating a vibrant economic landscape.

Professor Robin Ali, Director of the Centre for Cell and Gene Therapy at King’s College London

The unique collaboration between LifeArc, MRC and BBSRC will address the barriers hindering academic cutting-edge research into gene therapy treatments for rare or life-threatening genetic diseases. The creation of the infrastructure and facilities for a national network of Innovation Hubs will enable academic-led clinical trials of novel gene therapies to take place, helping the most innovative research to reach patients.

Recent innovations in gene therapies hold enormous potential for treating conditions such as rare diseases, but often promising ideas – particularly in academia – are not making it through to patients. Through our collaboration, we aim to meet the need for researchers to have access to the essential facilities and translational advice to progress promising research.

Dr Melanie Lee, CEO of LifeArc

Support for innovative advanced therapies has been a long-standing priority for MRC and so we are delighted to announce this unique partnership with LifeArc. The new network of Innovation Hubs for gene therapies will build on the UK’s great strengths in this area, providing targeted investment in vital infrastructure to accelerate academic research programmes down the path to patient benefit, supporting the delivery of a new wave of genetic medicines.

Professor Fiona Watt, MRC's Executive Chair

Gene therapies have outstanding clinical potential, but their development is critically dependent on the manufacture of the underpinning viral vector delivery technology. Over a number of years, BBSRC has made significant investments to help support bioprocess research and development; we are therefore delighted to be investing in this network of Hubs which will harness the UK’s excellence in bioprocess innovation to tackle key challenges in viral vector manufacturing.

Dr Lee Beniston, BBSRC’s Associate Director for Industry Partnerships & Collaborative R&D