Dear member or sympathiser,
It is our pleasure to welcome you to the British Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (BSGCT) website. Our Society was founded in 2003 with the goal of advancing the science and practice of gene therapy for the public benefit, and as we approach our twentieth anniversary, we remain firmly committed to an aim which is quickly becoming a clinical reality. Gene and Cell therapies are formally known as Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs) in the European Union. Technically, the definition of ATMP includes products based on genes, cells or tissues. However, our field of expertise also covers short, chemically synthesized nucleic acids (oligonucleotides) that can alter gene function, which are quickly becoming an important part of the medical armamentarium. Collectively, these therapeutics offer avenues of treatment for previously intractable genetic diseases as well as novel approaches to treat common diseases.
The first gene therapy trials were conducted in the early 90s and since then the number of clinical studies has grown into the thousands. Marketing approvals took some time to arrive, but Gendicine (an adenoviral vector against cancer) received the first one, in China, in 2003. Glybera (an adeno-associated viral vector to treat lipoprotein lipase deficiency) received the first European approval in 2012. Since then, oligonucleotides, viral vectors, autologous (from the person affected) and allogeneic (donor-derived) cultured cells, and genetically modified T-cells and haematopoietic stem cells have been steadily licensed. Their relative importance is increasing fast: in the round of recommendations for marketing approval published on 16th October 2020 by the European Medicines Agency (EMA, the EU regulator), four out of the ten drugs with positive recommendations were gene or gene cell therapies.
Not surprisingly, advanced therapeutics are a priority area in the UK Industrial Strategy and present significant opportunities for health benefit and economic growth. The worldwide gene and cell therapy market has been estimated to reach $21bn/year by 2025, with $716m of gene therapy venture capital funding invested since 2010 (Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce Report).
We have therefore entered a very exciting phase, where gene and cell therapy drugs are becoming mainstream treatments as well as crucial industrial products. However, the production and delivery of advanced therapeutics is complex and therefore expensive, and significant challenges lie ahead. To allow timely adoption of a significant drug pipeline, every stage in the therapeutic development and delivery process will require innovation, including pre-clinical and clinical studies, manufacturing, approval, pharmaceutical logistics, clinical delivery and reimbursement (the negotiation of a price between manufacturer and NHS or insurer that allows the manufacturer access to the market). In the UK, adoption through healthcare providers such as the NHS requires approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), a very complex and lengthy process based on cost/benefit analyses which can ultimately limit access, not unusually leading to utter disappointment for people affected and their families. Realistic and transparent pricing by manufacturers, and novel evaluation methods by healthcare agencies, will be required to ensure that gene and cell therapies become universally available, but also that fair profits from these innovative technologies support future R&D. In addition, due to the explosive growth of our industry, skill shortages are threatening to become a major bottleneck in further advancing gene and cell therapies, which needs to be urgently addressed through Higher Education and Apprenticeship Training Programmes.
BSGCT was established to foster communication and collaboration in the UK, with the aim of accelerating scientific progress and promoting fast translation from bench to bedside. Please help us with these efforts by becoming a member of our Society.
With very best wishes
Uta Griesenbach (President)
Rafael J. Yáñez-Muñoz (President-Elect)
Join the Board
Nominations are invited from BSGCT members for election to the Board of the BSGCT. Board members serve for a 3 year term, and are eligible for re-election for a further 3 years. Currently there are 3 vacancies to be filled.
Candidates for election to membership of the Board must be members of the Society, and nominations should be supported by two current BSGCT members.
The closing date for nominations is Monday 26th October 2020.
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