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Harvard, MIT, Industry Leaders to Create Center for Innovation and Manufacturing Medicines

Senior members of Harvard's central administration, including University Provost Alan M. Garber '76, work in Massachusetts Hall.
Senior members of Harvard's central administration, including University Provost Alan M. Garber '76, work in Massachusetts Hall. By Sydney R. Mason
By Michelle G. Kurilla and Lucy Liu, Crimson Staff Writers

A group of academic, biotech, biopharma, and healthcare leaders at Harvard and across Massachusetts plan to create a new center for innovation and manufacturing next-generation medicines, according to a Monday press release.

The center, which is estimated to cost $50 million dollars, will be an independent non-profit located in the Greater Boston area. The board of directors of the new center includes leaders from Harvard, MIT, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

Multiple area medical institutes — including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital — will also contribute, as will biotech company MilliporeSigma and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in the press release that the collaboration embodies world-class expertise in multiple disciplines.

“We are privileged to be part of this collaborative initiative,” he said. “It will advance scientific discovery, reaffirm the region’s global leadership in the life sciences, and bring forward life-saving and life-changing therapies that will make a difference for people around the world.”

The center’s work will focus on cell manipulation, gene editing, and other therapies that use living cells as treatment, including CAR-T cell therapy — wherein a patient’s own T cells are modified to identify and attack cancer cells — and stem cell therapy. These technologies have applications in treating a variety of health issues, including type 1 diabetes and neurodegeneration.

The space will include an Innovation Center and a Manufacturing Center, designed to allow research that needs refinement and research ready to be scaled up to be discussed in the same space.

Because biomanufacturing services tend to become backlogged, research and clinical trials requiring custom cells or viral vectors can face delays of up to 18 months. By housing both research and the production of raw materials in one facility, the center aims to ameliorate the biomanufacturing bottleneck and accelerate the development and introduction of new medications, according to the release.

University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 conceived the idea for the project more than two years ago and has helped guide it along since then, the release states.

“The broad question that we were trying to address was, ‘How can we best position our region to be preeminent in the life sciences in the decades to come?’” Garber said in the press release. “We have a vibrant life sciences community, with some of the world's greatest hospitals, universities, and life sciences companies of all kinds. We also have a strong financial sector that helps to spawn and support new companies.”

The Boston area has all of the elements needed to improve production, according to Garber.

“So the elements for rapid progress in the life sciences — particularly in the application of the life sciences to human health — are all here,” he said in the release. “But with such a rapid pace of innovation, it's easy to fall behind. We wanted to make sure that would not happen here.”

The center will be named in 2020. The team is hoping to complete the next phase of work — finding a location, designing the space, and hiring staff — in 2021 or 2022, according to Harvard spokesperson Kevin Casey.

— Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at michelle.kurilla@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

—Staff writer Lucy Liu can be reached at lucy.liu@thecrimson.com.

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HealthScienceMedicineMIT