It’s a big company with a large footprint, and true to form, GE Healthcare’s Life Sciences division is making headlines as it scales up for the ambitious challenges of cell therapy manufacturing. Most recently there was the acquisition of Thermo-Fisher businesses, notably the HyClone cell culture media and sera technologies. This followed on the heels of introducing the new Xuri technology family, in which the first product is the Xuri Cell Expansion System W25 for the scaling out of cellular immunotherapies in a clinical setting.
Beyond the top-line news, General Manager for Cell Therapy Technologies at GE Life Sciences, Phil Vanek, points to the company’s recognition of the need for greater collaboration and engagement to solve the challenges.
Phil Vanek, GE Life Sciences
“No company can go off and design something and then successfully introduce it to the market anymore,” he said. “It becomes essential that we walk in the shoes of the clinicians and the process developers, to fully understand and appreciate the real world challenges they face. At the end of the day a clinician is not concerned about operating parameters but that a therapy gets through the system safely and cost-effectively to be delivered to the patient. The only way to do this is to understand the entire workflow.”
In some ways cell therapy is an extension of GE’s leadership position in the bioprocessing space, said Vanek,”yet personalized autologous medicine requires a very different type of infrastructure than does an allogeneic scale-up mindset which is more closely aligned with traditional biotherapeutic manufacturing approaches. When you look at the complexity of industrializing these immunotherapies and the inherent biological variability, this becomes much more a scale-out effort that brings different automation and logistical challenges.”
“We have had very solid competencies in downstream processing for years,” he noted.”We moved strongly upstream with the addition of new technologies. But it is less about moving up- or down-stream than being able to provide a complete solution from front end to back end for customers.
“When you look at what GE does more broadly there is a perfect fit for addressing the emerging needs in the industry. This is the type of complexity GE is especially good at solving and, through the life sciences business, we can pull engineering competencies from across GE to apply them, whether it is for a new facility design, for automating workflow, or for logistics and sharing materials.”
Vanek said the GE Life Sciences team will be actively using the partnering system at BIO-Europe Spring® in Turin, “pursuing meetings with people strategically important for us. On the in-bound side our interest will be in novel technologies anywhere in the cell therapy workflow, whether it is a new medium formulation or a new device for processing.”
“On the outbound side we will be looking for infrastructure challenges where we think GE can bring a particular skill set,” he said. “It does not have to be a very well-defined challenge. If there is an organization, a pharmaceutical company or a government trying to put together the whole package for cell therapy, that is the type of challenges we would like to hear about. We may not participate in every one of those, but it does give us an opportunity to really understand what the needs are in the industry.”
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