This preclinical study will pave the way for biopharmaceutical companies to transition away from using viruses. The aim is to enable gene-modified cell therapy manufacturing with open source biology to provide patients with improved access to curative therapies for blood cancer.
SYDNEY & SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–August 9, 2018–
The NSW Medical Device Fund has awarded AUD$500,000 to Indee Labs to partner with the University of Sydney to trial its technology to manufacture curative therapeutics for blood cancer.
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Visual concept for the Indee Labs’ instrument currently in development for the efficient delivery of genes into cells in the manufacturing of gene-modified cell therapies Credit: Design+Industry (design-industry.com.au).
The use of viruses is a major roadblock in progressing gene-modified cell therapies past regulatory approvals because it increases the cost and complexity of producing the treatments. Simplification using the method proposed by Indee Labs could make the whole process quicker, cheaper and more widely accessible.
Announced recently by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard MP, the NSW Medical Device funding means the partners can progress a technology allowing cells to be altered or ‘transfected’ at scale for use in gene-modified cell therapies.
“The problem we are addressing is that current gene therapies are too slow and expensive to make, and manufacturing isn’t scalable to meet even a small fraction of global demand,” says Indee Labs Australia chief executive, Dr Warren McKenzie.
Instead of using viruses to transport genetic material into cells, the company employs a microfluidic chip to gently and mechanically disrupt a cell membrane allowing genetic material such as mRNA into T cells.
It has already demonstrated this with human white blood cells or T cells, and lab tests show it is faster, safer and more scalable than competing technologies, such as viruses or ‘electroporation’, which involves delivering an electric shock to a cell to punch a hole in its membrane.
The partners will use the funds to compare Indee Labs’ technology with the electroporation gene delivery method for future use in clinical trials led by Dr David Gottlieb, Professor in Medicine at the University of Sydney and Westmead Institute for Medical Research.
“We are very optimistic the Indee Labs method will allow us to rapidly roll out locally manufactured gene-modified T cells to Australian patients with blood cancers,” said Professor Gottlieb. “If that is successful, the method will put us in a great position to apply the technology to a wide group of cancer sufferers.”
About Indee Labs
Indee Labs is developing hardware for gene delivery using microfluidic vortex shedding (µVS).
Gene delivery to cells is the most critical and problematic step in developing and manufacturing gene-modified cell therapies (GMCTs). GMCTs represent the most promising platform for many patients suffering from diseases such as cancer or genetic disorders, where traditional forms of medicine fail. Indee Labs is backed by investors in both Australia (Main Sequence Ventures) and the United States (Y Combinator, Social+Capital and Founders Fund).
Indee Labs would like to hear from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies developing gene therapies interested in trialing gene delivery based on µVS.
Professor David Gottlieb
David Gottlieb is Professor of Haematology at the University of Sydney and is Head of Cell Therapies and Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Westmead Hospital. His major research interest is in cellular therapy centered around reconstruction of immunity following immunosuppressive therapy and stem cell transplantation with a particular emphasis on viral and anti-tumor immunity.
Dr Warren McKenzie
Dr Warren McKenzie is Director and CEO of Indee Labs in Australia. He is an engineer specializing in micro and nanotechnology, an entrepreneur, company director, mentor and Endeavour Fellow. He holds a BE in Materials Science, PhD in Nanotechnology and Master of Commerce. He is a conjoint academic at UNSW Materials and a Certified Materials Practitioner in the Australian Institute of Materials Engineers.