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04.05.20

MRC create £16m fund for Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs

A partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and life science medical research charity LifeArc are making £16m available as part of a fund to establish a network of Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs.

Providing early phase academic-led gene therapy clinical trials with access to clinical grade viral vector and translation support, the network of innovation hubs aim to amplify the discoveries of academic researchers, harnessing the capabilities, materials and resources essential to progressing innovative research towards patient trials.

Funding for these innovation hubs will be made available through grants of up to five years, creating a diverse network of centrally-coordinated and complementary gene therapy facilities in the UK.

The 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.

Awarded grants will pay for, but are not limited to, key staff posts and infrastructure costs. Those involved in awarding the funding are anticipating applications of various sizes, ranging from smaller awards of between £1m to £2m to repurpose or import additional platforms to existing facilities through to larger scale investments of between £5m and £7m to support new or expanded infrastructure.

LifeArc and the MRC are not seeking any financial return from these grants and will identify successful applications through a three-stage process.

Expressions of interest from scientists are being sought by 16:00 on June 1, 2020 via viralvector@mrc.ukri.org after which all expressions of interest will be assessed by a steering group before successful applicants will be invited to a compulsory online workshop on June 23, 2020 and then have until early September 2020 to submit full proposals.

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