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The rise of Cell and Gene Therapies

Project professionals helping to create success.

The rise of Cell and Gene Therapies: Project professionals helping to create success.

The UK life sciences industry has continued to see significant growth over the last few years, remaining resilient to recent economic uncertainty. Cell and Gene Therapies (CGT) have been particularly dynamic in the sector with the number of companies growing by an average annual rate of 22% between 2015 and 2021. CGT is still a niche market; however, sales are predicted to see near to exponential growth over the next few years. By 2029, global sales revenues could be 25 to 30 times higher than their 2022 levels. CGT is advancing at a fast pace with the help of AI, which is assisting researchers identify new targets, predict drug efficacy and toxicity, and optimise clinical trial designs. These advancements in therapies and technologies are driving growth in the number of companies in the sector, which in turn is leading to increased real estate requirements from CGT companies, particularly in the UK.

The UK’s Cell and Gene Therapy clusters

UK CGT research dates back to the 1980s when researchers began exploring the potential of using genetically modified cells to treat diseases. Since then, the UK has become a leading centre for the development of these therapies and in 2012 the Government launched the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGTC). It aimed to accelerate the conversion of research into clinical practice and has supported numerous companies and academic institutions, provided expertise, funding, and infrastructure, and promoting the UK as a global leader in this field. Key clusters have emerged in Stevenage, London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, and Oxford, each with unique characteristics. The ‘golden triangle’ between London, Oxford and Cambridge is the third largest CGT cluster in the world after Boston and San Francisco.

Project professionals are helping to create success

The rise of the CGT industry is a real success story for the UK, it is now a leading global centre of excellence with industry related sales and revenue expected to grow exponentially over the next decade through specialist clusters. Project professionals are contributing to this success in several ways. As well as the more obvious project work associated with research and development (R&D), gaining MHRA approvals, manufacturing and delivering therapies to market, project professionals are also working hard implementing specific Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation projects which are helping researchers achieve results faster by analysing data, identifying new targets, predicting drug efficacy and toxicity, and optimising clinical trial designs. Automation projects are playing a leading role in improving CGT manufacturing, enabling the scaleup of production, reducing costs, and increasing the quality and consistency of advanced CGTs. Many aspects of CGT manufacturing are still primarily part of the R&D process, and are heavily linked to the clinical trials process, although as the industry grows and treatments become more established there will be opportunities to scale. The more niche the therapy or drug, the greater the need for a manufacturing focus earlier in the R&D and trials process. The clinical trials process normally involves using clinical (tier 2) General Manufacturing Practice (GMP) manufacturing between pre-clinical and Phase 3 trials, and commercial (tier 1) manufacturing for Phase 4 and beyond.

Consequently, the real estate requirements for CGT companies are complex, with requirements for specialised equipment along with systems that can maintain set temperatures, humidity, and air pressure etc. This is needed for R&D, but also across the resultant manufacturing, storing, and distributing cycles for products. Demand for CGT related property in a wide variety of locations is increasing, and project professionals are playing a leading role in creating new accommodation and facilities through architectural and engineering design and construction. CGT companies typically need wet-laboratory facilities as well as high specification GMP laboratory space to maintain a highly controlled environment. Project professionals also need to consider the specialist requirements of CGT buildings, including the increased HVAC, electrical power and engineering requirements associated with these facilities. There is also the added complication of CGT buildings needing to be situated within close proximity to patient point-of-care. This requirement is caused by complex cold chains and long vein to vein times affecting patient eligibility which consequently increases land acquisition, design, construction, and operations costs when compared to situating facilities in more traditional manufacturing locations throughout the UK.

In summary, project professionals are playing an instrumental role in the sustained growth of the life science sector; helping CGT companies upscale their R&D, manufacturing, and implement their real estate strategies at pace, to facilitate their rapidly growing needs, and ultimately, to increase the speed to market for their new and innovative therapies.

This blog is a summary from The Rise of Cell & Gene Therapies and the implications for UK Real Estate research report published in April 2024.