September 23, 2023

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New Hi-Tech Lab Advanced Cellular Therapies Hong Kong

Image Credits: HKSTP, Press Release

The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and the LKS Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed), have jointly announced the introduction of the HKU-HKSTP Collaborative Programme and the inauguration of the HKUMed Laboratory of Cellular Therapeutics.

The state-of-the-art Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) laboratory serves the purpose of protecting public health and facilitating the advancement of advanced therapy products (ATPs). With this significant development, new avenues of research and the production of ATPs, such as stem cell therapy for cardiac diseases led by Professor Tse Hung-fat and CAR-T cell therapy for blood cancers led by Professor Eric Tse Wai-choi, are now made possible. The products manufactured in this facility will benefit a wide range of patients, and the acquired clinical experience will further drive the progress of innovative therapies.

The HKUMed GMP Lab has a primary objective of producing clinical-grade advanced therapy products (ATPs) as investigational medicinal products (IMPs) specifically for use in clinical trials. Additionally, it serves as an innovative training platform for scientists and clinicians, offering unique opportunities for skill development.

Notably, this facility holds the distinction of being Hong Kong’s first GMP multi-products establishment with provisional approval from the HKSAR Department of Health for an ATP manufacturing license. Moreover, it functions as a training centre aligned with the standards of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention and Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC/S), ensuring compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines. The centre caters to the training needs of key personnel involved in ATP manufacturing, quality control, and quality assurance processes.

To establish Hong Kong as a prominent hub for the development of advanced therapy products (ATPs), two crucial factors are emphasised: talent training and international collaboration. The HKUMed GMP Lab has successfully implemented a joint training program with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and University College London (UCL), resulting in a skilled workforce capable of effectively operating the facility.

Additionally, HKU is actively engaged in the development of ATP translational training at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, in collaboration with esteemed international partners such as UCL and Cell Therapies Pty Ltd in Melbourne.

This collaborative effort aims to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills in gene and cell therapies. The establishment of the HKUMed GMP Lab not only provides unparalleled learning opportunities but also serves as a crucial bridge in transforming research discoveries made by HKUMed into tangible products that can benefit patients.

To facilitate the commercialisation of local research breakthroughs, the HKUMed GMP Lab will engage in collaborations with biotechnology companies to undertake Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) projects and pilot trials. The focus will be on establishing clinical trials for CAR-T and stem cell therapies within the next five years, with the goal of benefiting not only cancer patients but also those with non-cancer conditions.

This progress sets the stage for future product development at the Jockey Club Centre for Clinical Innovation and Discovery, located at Grantham Hospital. The upcoming centre will feature a GMP laboratory for gene and cell therapy on a significantly larger scale, enabling the HKUMed GMP Lab to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies in the localised manufacturing of cellular products, particularly for CAR-T therapies. This concerted effort aims to accelerate the translation of innovative therapies into practical solutions that can positively impact patient care.

Dr Grace Lau, the Head of the Institute for Translational Research at HKSTP, emphasised the significance of the GMP facility in facilitating the translation of promising research from local universities and biotech companies into clinical applications. HKSTP is dedicated to solidifying Hong Kong’s position as a leading hub for biomedical technology in Asia. This commitment involves providing essential infrastructure, securing international recognition, attracting investments, and fostering strategic partnerships. The HKU-HKSTP Collaborative Programme plays a vital role in strengthening Hong Kong’s ecosystem for advanced therapy products (ATPs) and significantly enhancing the city’s global competitiveness in the research and commercialization of next-generation cell and gene therapies.

Professor Tse Hung-fat, the academic lead of the HKUMed Laboratory of Cellular Therapeutics, expressed confidence in HKU’s efforts to gather top industry talents and establish itself as a premier ATP training hub in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

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