In August 2012 the Novartis Institutes for Bio- Medical Research, based in Cambridge, Massa- chusetts, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine (Penn Medicine)
announced they had entered into an exclusive
global research and licensing agreement. Under
the alliance, Penn Medicine granted Novartis an
exclusive worldwide license to the technologies
used in an ongoing trial of patients with chronic
lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) as well as future therapies based on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)
technology developed through the collaboration.
As part of the agreement, Novartis invested $20
million to establish the $27-million Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies (CACT) and to support
future research in CAR technology.
Construction on the CACT—formally known as
the Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular
Therapeutics—began in December 2014, and
the facility opened in early 2016. It adjoins the
existing cancer therapeutics floor in the Smilow
Center for Translational Research, allowing it to
be fully integrated into Penn Medicine’s research
and clinical operations. The CACT employs 100
highly specialized professionals working across
6,300 sq. ft. of cleanroom space specially de-
signed for cell engineering and 24,000 sq. ft. of
laboratory and cell therapy manufacturing space
with the capacity to manufacture cellular thera-
pies for up to 400 patients per year.
“The CACT will allow us to leverage this progress to develop and test new approaches more
quickly,” says Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W.
Vague Professor in Immunotherapy at Penn
Medicine. “At the same time, we’ll be able to
expand our ability to manufacture personalized
cell therapies for a greater number of trials.”
A NEW SCIENTIFIC
Although the CACT is primarily a lab and research
space, the project design team brought in experts
from outside the fields of science and technology
with a view to making the facility more efficient
and effective. They also included specialists in
corporate workplace design to create the best
environment possible for employees.
Open-plan laboratories within the facility al-
low researchers from the center’s four principal
investigator (PI) teams to work together rather
than in silos, as in many lab facilities. Each PI team
works on different aspects of the research, which
requires specialized facilities: the clinical cell and
vaccine production facility, a quality control lab,
a transformational and correlative studies lab,
and a product development lab. This approach
promotes what the center calls a “new scientific
workplace culture,” which blurs the boundaries
across disciplines and encourages collaboration.
The center was designed and built to meet
current good manufacturing practice cleanroom standards, including ISO Class 10,000 cell
processing rooms and ISO Class 100,000 support spaces. The flow of specimens, materials,
and staff has also been carefully considered
to ensure the highest standard of cleanliness
throughout the facility.
These and other design decisions are intended to improve collaboration and communication
among the teams, helping them increase speed to
market and produce individual patient therapies
more efficiently. The strategic layout and organization of lab equipment will also dramatically cut
the time it takes to generate “hunter” cells: While
it previously took a month to produce these therapeutic agents for each patient, the new facility will
help reduce the time to two weeks.
The CACT advances this process through the