Keith Thompson, CEO of the Cell Therapy Catapult, reflects on the official opening of their new facilities by Dr Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, last week.

It’s been a hectic few months here at the Cell Therapy Catapult – culminating in the official opening of our new facilities on Wednesday by Dr Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. In his speech, as well as highlighting the potential of cell therapy across a range of therapeutic areas, Dr Cable discussed how the ‘Catapult movement was gaining momentum’. That’s certainly a view we share, as we assess the progress that we and our fellow Catapults have made since inception. You’ll soon be able to read more about our achievements so far and plans for 2014/15 in our annual review, expected to be released in the next few weeks.

During his visit to the Cell Therapy Catapult, Dr Cable was given a tour of our laboratories, and certainly seemed to enjoy it. As well as showcasing our range of technical capability and expertise (with a fantastic view of the London skyline), we find that the tour really helps to bring our work to life for many visitors. Not only does it exemplify the business model, but also shows how busy we are with our collaborators. Work is ongoing on the ReNeuron and WT1 leukaemia cell therapy projects, for example. It was a great boost to us to have coverage of the latter on the day of our opening event in The Times newspaper – principal investigator Dr Emma Morris of UCL made some great comments therein on the potential impact of the therapy on patients. This kind of coverage helps to remind us of what cell therapy is all about.

CTC_1As I mentioned in my comments at the opening event, our laboratory facilities are based around an ‘infinitely reconfigurable’ pod concept. We will be building on many of the concepts used in the development of the labs in the new large scale Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre, funding for which we were of course awarded in March. With a project manager in place and a strong delivery team building up, work on the new Centre is well underway. CBRE is the site selection agent, and you can read the User Requirement Brief and site selection process on our website here.

Many BIA members have seen our new facilities, but if you haven’t and would like a tour, do please get in touch. We’d also like to thank you for the interesting and supportive feedback you gave to the BIA secretariat as part of the Hauser consultation/review of the Technology Strategy Board’s Catapult programme. As part of his review, Dr Hauser is visiting each of the seven Catapults, talking to their staff and hearing testimony from various stakeholders. In a busy June, we welcomed him to the Cell Therapy Catapult the week before the official opening, and he also seemed to enjoy his lab tour very much.

Thanks also to BIA members for your input in our recent cell therapy perception survey. We hope to share the results with you soon.

Our first annual review will showcase what we’ve done, and our plans for 2014/15 and beyond. These kinds of documents provide great snapshots of progress, and we’re really pleased that it highlights the portfolio of projects we’re developing with the UK and international cell therapy community. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it while you bask in the delights of the UK summer.