MRC and LifeArc announce grants for Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs in UK

The UK MRC and LifeArc are making £16 million available as grants to fund the establishment of Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs to improve resources for researchers and manufacturers.

Gene therapy

The UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and LifeArc have announced they are making £16 million available to establish a network of Gene Therapy Innovation Hubs, providing access to clinical grade viral vector and translational support for early phase academic-led gene therapy clinical trials.

Funding will be available through grants of up to five years, with the aim of creating a diverse network of centrally co-ordinated and complementary gene therapy facilities in the UK.

These hubs are intended to amplify the discoveries of academic researchers, harnessing the capabilities, materials and resources that are essential to progressing innovative research towards patient trials.

MRC and LifeArc will provide funding to UK-based research organisations and/or businesses that will:

  • Provide academics with access to good manufacturing practice (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 co-ordinate 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 co-ordinated project selection, skills and training activities and engagement with the wider vector manufacturing and gene therapy communities.

The organisations say that grants will pay for, but are not limited to, key staff posts and infrastructure costs. It is expected that applications may be of a range of sizes, ranging from smaller awards of £1-2 million to repurpose or import additional platforms to existing facilities, to larger scale investment of £5-7 million in new or expanded infrastructure. LifeArc and the MRC say they will not seek any financial return on these grants.