What is your current role in ADVANCE(CAT) and how would you value this experience?
My role is the one of a coordinator, ADVANCE(CAT) gathers 18 different institutions that have decided to join forces to accelerate the development of Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs). Such an amount of partners with a great diversity of status and missions, from University to private research foundation, from big pharma to start-up, requires a lot of work on the pure management side to stir up collaborative work, align goals, make sure everybody deliver the results on time or correct predicted milestones. My job is essentially liaising between people, understanding their position and integrating them in a global perspective. On the day-to-day, it is a lot of meetings, emails and phone calls. I am also involved with my research laboratory in the scientific work on stem cell manipulation and production under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
The experience as a coordinator is bittersweet. I am happy to have so many great scientists around the same table and working together yet I am somehow disappointed because of the limitations set by the administrative rules of the project call.
What goals or achievements of the ADVANCE(CAT) project would you like to highlight?
Without a doubt the best has been to generate a sense of community for many people involved in ATMPs development at so many levels of the development chain. To see experts interacting, exchanging ideas, starting collaborations, improving their output and perspectives because of ADVANCE(CAT), that’s a victory. To get more specific on some of the achievements: many institutions (UB, CMRB, BMF, BST, IGTP, IDIBELL) have been able to exchange protocols and material to discriminate the best options between different cell sources (ESCs, iPSCs, MSCs) to be used for cell therapy strategies. Some start-ups have had the opportunity to refine or sart developing tools for research: software (Butler) for complex data analysis and hardware (Qrem) for cell manipulation. Industrial partners (Ferrer, Bioibérica) have brought crucial studies about market and intellectual property to help choosing the right development strategies to secure a future for the ATMPs.
What are your expectations from the ADVANCE(CAT) project?
Mainly that the awareness of who is into ATMPs around Catalonia and all the expertise available will start a dynamic for the development and advanced therapies. Hopefully ADVANCE(CAT) will continue in the future, we are working on that aspect as well, and will be the meeting point for ATMP specialists to generate solutions for patients while creating an industry with an impact on the local economy.
How positive are you that within the next decade we’ll move forward significantly in terms of advanced therapies?
It’s been 10 years now since the EU first regulated the use of ATMPs. As they rely on complex biological manipulations, ATMPs have struggled a lot to bring consistent improvements for patients’ health over the standard of care and be sustainable economically. The next 10 years will be crucial to consolidate the field. We need harmonized regulations for the whole European Union and technological breakthrough to make ATMPs more cutting-edge and cheaper. It is a complicated path but a promising one.