Cell and gene therapy (CGT) are widely accepted as top biomedical trends for over three years now and continue to evolve in their use for treating human diseases. CGTs are expected to increasingly shape the medical treatment and diagnosis, as we are approaching the era of precision medicine. Cell-based therapy is a promising strategy for effective treatment across a wide range of diseases though the focus so far, has primarily been on cancer, e.g. Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy made from removing T cells from individual patients, engineer them to be able to recognize and kill cancer cells before re-administer them to the same patient. CAR-T cell therapy is widely regarded as having revolutionised the treatment of some blood cancers. Recent research evidence suggests that cell therapy can effectively apply to solid cancers as well.
Gene therapy, on the other hand, is yet far from having revealed its full potential and, therefore, innovative gene therapies remain a top priority in genomic medicine. Some companies believe that, after having achieved a robust proof-of-concept, clinical development and downstream interaction with regulatory agencies will be easy. The reality, however, is that the whole process from concept to commercialisation, from research to commercial grade viral vector under GMP standards, is a very demanding one, with the constant need for technological improvements to successfully overcome challenges such as increasing accuracy/specificity and scaling up the production or the release of tests that must be completed before use in patients. Finally, combined cell- and gene-based approaches in preclinical studies, is a relatively new bio-trend that is increasingly gaining the interest of cell and gene therapy scientists worldwide.
With this Pathfinder Challenge, EIC strategically aims at reinforcing critical components of the European cell and gene therapy community, such as focused research consortia, start-ups and spinoffs, in their ability to compete and sustain in this fiercely competitive field, full of challenges and obstacles all along the way from discovery to the manufacturing step. Proposals submitted to this call should effectively address exactly that, by proposing convincing technological solutions and/or new breakthrough concepts that go far beyond the current state-of-the-art.
Proposers are invited to submit disease-specific or non-disease-specific proposals, focused on emerging technologies or technological solutions aimed to overcome the current cell and gene therapy challenges in one or several the areas listed below, but without being restricted only to these areas.
- Advancing cell therapy manufacturing and products to a clinical stage
- Improving adoptive cell therapies (CAR-T, TCR, TIL)
- Identifying next generation cell therapies for cancer
- Applying cell therapy to treat cancer patients in a personalised manner
- Improving the effectiveness and lowering the risks of gene delivery systems (vectors)
- Improving gene therapy manufacturing processes and production