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Singapore: Cell Therapy Hub Revolutionising Treatment

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Consortium for Clinical Research and Innovation, Singapore (CRIS)
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The opening of a new 2,000-square-meter cell therapy facility has been announced by the Advanced Cell Therapy and Research Institute, Singapore (ACTRIS), in response to the increasing clinical need for cell and gene therapy (CGT) treatments within Singapore.

The largest national facility of its kind, the facility has 14 Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) clean suites, four translational laboratories, and one quality control laboratory. It will support healthcare services, university institutions for research, and biotech start-ups.

Its cutting-edge machinery can support all stages of the creation and production of a cell therapy process, including cell selection, genetic alteration, closed-system manufacturing, and product storage. The facility’s cutting-edge infrastructure, like its air-handling systems, enables ACTRIS to produce many cell therapy products simultaneously, hastening patient access to these cutting-edge therapies.

By the time they reach the age of 75, 1 in 4 Singaporeans expects to have received a cancer diagnosis. Certain types of blood cancer may benefit from CGT as a form of treatment. Research developments in CGT have now made it possible to use cells as “living drugs” to cure cancer.

The chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell, which uses patients’ immune cells to target particular cancer cells, is one of these product classes available in Singapore. Immune cells from patients receiving CAR-T therapy are initially collected in hospitals; these live cells are then sent to a GMP-compliant facility, such as the ACTRIS facility, where they go through multiple processing phases.

These include cell expansion to enhance the quantity of these T-cells, genetic modification to improve the patient’s T-cells’ ability to fight cancer, and a last stage of quality testing to guarantee the finest possible result for the patients. These procedures must be carried out in a GMP setting that is extremely clean and controlled. The patient would subsequently receive the changed cells when they were returned to hospitals.

Associate Professor Danny Soon, Chief Executive Officer of the Consortium for Clinical Research and Innovation, Singapore and Interim Executive Director of ACTRIS, claims that ACTRIS’ new facility will be able to meet the rising demand from the regional hospitals and research institutions for the development and manufacturing of cell therapy products.

They are eager to participate in innovative studies that will progress regenerative medicine and cancer treatment. In the future, ACTRIS will support more public-private partnerships and aid businesses looking to develop CGT products in obtaining the legal authorisations needed to import their cell therapy goods into Singapore.

More innovation is something that Dr Francesca Lim, Chief Medical Officer of ACTRIS and Senior Consultant Haematologist at Singapore General Hospital, is looking forward to, especially when it’s done in collaboration with research partners. This will be a powerful catalyst for R&D to flow into ACTRIS. The infrastructure provided by this facility will enable the production of these cutting-edge cellular medicines, which will be extremely beneficial to the patients.

The new facility at ACTRIS, according to Professor Chee Yam Cheng, chairman of ACTRIS and president of the Singapore Medical Council, will revolutionise Singapore’s cell treatment industry. Local production of high-quality cell therapies will speed up treatment delivery and give patients access to potentially life-saving treatments.

To hasten the implementation of cell therapies in regional hospitals and improve healthcare delivery and patient care, ACTRIS has announced a collaborative grant call with the National Health Innovation Centre Singapore (NHIC). Funding and assistance will be provided to eligible initiatives to promote the creation of cell therapy products.


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