Singapore to Invest USD 60 Million in Cell Therapy Manufacturing

April 2019

At the 11th Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC) Meeting of the Singapore government on 27 March, it was announced that Singapore will invest SGD 80 million (USD 60 million) to develop core capabilities required for cell therapy manufacturing. 

In cell therapy intact living cells are injected into a patient to derive a therapeutic effect such as restoring tissue or organ function, or fighting cancer. The industry has seen accelerated growth over the past few years led by recent launches of cell therapy products. However, cell therapy manufacturing remains challenging due to the complex process and lack of suitable manufacturing technologies. The key challenges are: 1) Scalability in terms of generating sufficient quantities of cells for therapy; 2) Characterization and quality control of cell-based products and identification and  measurement of safety and efficacy attributes; and 3) Improving process efficiencies to reduce manual processes and increase reproducibility.

Building on Singapore’s existing strengths as a pharmaceutical manufacturing center, capabilities developed by public sector researchers and clinical translation and clinical trials in different diseases, three cell therapy manufacturing R&D programs are being established, bring together multi-disciplinary teams across nine public-sector research centers including A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), Institutes of Higher Learning, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), and hospitals. The three programs are: 

Scalable Autologous Clinical Cell Manufacturing Platform: Aims to develop a commercially scalable platform for autologous cell therapy across healthcare clusters in Singapore by identifying and addressing bottlenecks in the entire autologous (using cell or tissues obtained from the same individual) cell therapy manufacturing process.
Biological Quality Determinants for Allogeneic Mesenchymal Stem Cells Manufacturing: Aims to transform allogeneic (cells or tissues from a genetically similar, but not identical donor) cellular therapy and establish therapeutically-potent mesenchymal stem cells (these can differentiate into several types of cells belonging to our skeletal tissues, such as cartilage, bone and fat) for clinical translation by integrating new manufacturing technology within Singapore to address donor selection and optimal culture conditions.
Critical Analytics for Manufacturing of Personalized Medicine Programme: Aims to develop technology that will enable safe, effective and cost-efficient manufacturing of biological cells for use in personalized medicine for human health impact.

The press release from the Nation Research Foundation highlights that in recent years, there has been an exponential growth of local cell therapy biotechs. This includes companies developing immune cells therapies such as Tessa Therapeutics, Lion TCR, MediSix Therapeutics), companies developing stem cells and derived products as therapies such as CellResearch Corp, Paracrine Therapeutics, Celligenics, and Contract development and manufacturing organizations such as CellVec, Esco Aster. The cell therapy manufacturing R&D programs will support these local biotechnology companies and also multi-national companies in (1) cell therapy asset development, and (2) cell manufacturing related processes, with the ultimate goal of anchoring R&D and manufacturing activities from these companies in Singapore.

(Source: National Research Foundation, Singapore; Straits Times)

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