June 29, 2017

Good Manufacturing Practice for Cell and Cell-Based Therapies: Facilities & Quality Control

Novel cell and cell-based therapies require stringent manufacturing, testing and oversight to ensure integrity, function, and above all else, patient safety upon administration.  Tissue-derived cellular products are considered to be manufactured products and are regulated as such.  Thus, you must ensure that your cell manufacturing process is aligned to current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements.  (Note the “current”.  This means that these are evolving requirements, so you must stay up-to-date!)  In the United States, human cells, tissue and cellular- and tissue-based products (HCT/Ps) are regulated by the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), a division of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

When manufacturing cell and cell-based products, a production facility under strict Quality Control must be used.  Ideally, this facility includes the cell manufacturing suites, the storage space for raw and finished product and any laboratory/testing areas.  Thus, (1) facility design, access and maintenance, (2) equipment purchase, installation and operational qualification (I/OQ), use and maintenance and (3) raw material specifications, purchase, use and storage must all be carefully controlled.  For cell and cell-based therapies, terminal sterilization of the final product is often not possible.  As such, quality by design (QbD) is highly important in cell therapy, with stringent testing conducted on the tissue Donor (our next blog post in this series will cover this topic) to preclude risk of contamination at the source.  In addition, facility and equipment standards and monitoring must be instituted to ensure aseptic processing of cell and cell-based products.  To this end, closed systems and single-use disposables should be used whenever possible to minimize risk of contamination.  Therefore, a cGMP manufacturing facility must include clean rooms which control for temperature, humidity, pressure and air particulates, preventing any contamination of manufactured product due to the environment, materials, human handlers and cross-contamination from other products manufactured in the same facility.  As such, there should be uni-directional flow of materials and people through these areas and personnel must follow proper gowning procedures.  Facilities and equipment requirements are defined under US FDA 21CFR§211 and 21CFR§1271.

As mentioned above, stringent Quality Control systems must be in place to qualify all reagents and processes and to institute Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure quality and consistency in manufacturing processes and the end product. 

Facility and Quality Control considerations for cGMP cell manufacturing.

June 23, 2017

Demystifying Clinical Translation of Stem Cell-Based Therapies

As our company matures and we continue to execute to our mission of accelerating Regenerative Medicine, we find ourselves increasingly involved in conversations around scalable cGMP cell manufacturing, qualification of cell and cell-based therapies, and regulations around clinical translation of hMSCs and hMSC-based therapeutics.  While the US FDA and other global regulatory agencies provide guidances on the regulations surrounding clinical translation of cellular products, it is evident that there is still great uncertainty around rules, regulations, processes, timelines and costs associated with clinical translation.
How do you move from pre-clinical to clinical studies?
How must you manufacture your cells?
What data do you need to present to the FDA to move to clinical trials?
What sort of characterization assays are needed? 
What is the process for engaging the FDA and moving to clinical trials?
When do I need to do all of this?!

These are just a few of the questions that we commonly hear from our customers.  In an effort to facilitate our customers’ path to the clinic, we will be publishing here a series of blog posts on clinical translation of hMSCs.  These posts are meant to point you to the relevant guidances and points to consider surrounding clinical translation of hMSCs and are not meant to be the definitive authority on these matters.  We recommend that you engage your Quality and Regulatory teams (and/or consultants) early on in your Process Development efforts to ensure that you are considering all regulations and guidelines in developing a scalable, clinically- and commercially-relevant process and product.

What other questions do you have around clinical translation of hMSCs and hMSC-based therapies?

Check back in next week for our first blog post in this series.

June 15, 2017

Opportunities for BioManufacturing Sciences to Accelerate Upscaled Mesenchymal Stem Cell Manufacturing Technologies

Contributed by: Timothy R. Olsen, PhD - Sr. Scientist, Process and Product Development at RoosterBio Inc.

After the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) identified upcoming challenges in the U.S. biopharmaceutical manufacturing landscape (see document here), the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) was formed to help solve these challenges through the formation of a public-private partnership between industry, government, academia, and non-profits. The goal of NIIMBL is to accelerate Biopharmaceutical manufacturing innovation, support the development of standards that enable more efficient and rapid manufacturing capabilities, and educate and train a world-leading Biopharmaceutical manufacturing workforce to maintain the United States’ global lead and competitiveness in this industry. NIIMBL will be leveraging a $70 million investment from NIST, with at least $129 million more in funds from private partners. One of the great aspects of this institute is that they are encouraging partnership between large companies and smaller or medium size companies (called Small to Medium Enterprises “SME”), which will be sure to bolster innovation and streamline commercialization and implementation of new technologies. Kelvin Lee, the NIIMBL Institute Director, did a fabulous job taking the lead on organizing the Consortium's first National Meeting, where members from the United States Congress, Directors from the Food and Drug Administration, and many executive level industry representatives were invited to speak about the importance of manufacturing sciences and the current challenges we are facing as an industry. I had the opportunity to represent RoosterBio as an SME at this inaugural NIIMBL National Meeting, and I gave a talk in the “Rapid Fire” SME Innovation Showcase, as well as presented some of our work on how we are radically shortening the development timelines of Biopharmaceuticals that include a stem cell-derived component.
Confluent hMSCs on Solohill microcarriers.
Image from RoosterBio Inc
Among the many relevant talks given throughout the day, one specifically caught my attention. In his talk titled “Key Process & Assay Challenges in Cell Therapy Development,” Greg Russotti (Vice President, Technical Operations at Celgene Cellular Therapeutics) laid out challenges in the upscaled manufacturing of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). To meet the pressing need for economical manufacturing of hMSCs at clinically- and commercially- relevant scales, researchers have turned to single-use bioreactor systems that have successfully been used to manufacture other biomolecules, such as monocolonal antibodies which make up the lion’s share of blockbuster pharmaceuticals. However, unlike small molecule or large molecule production, cell therapy products are living, breathing cells, which presents unique bioprocessing constraints and challenges. Greg noted that there are technologies based on monoclonal production that can expand hMSCs in large quantities, like using 3D microcarrier-based bioreactor systems, but there are still many manufacturing innovations required before these manufacturing platforms can support a commercial cell therapy product.  
The technology gaps that he specifically mentioned for upscaled hMSC manufacturing were downstream processing technologies, specifically the unit operations related to:

April 14, 2017

Orthopaedic Research Spotlight: ORS 2017 Annual Meeting

A guest blog post by RoosterBio Travel Award winner, Poonam Sharma.

The annual Orthopaedic Research Society meeting was an energetic and collaborative conference attended by clinicians, industry professionals, and researchers. While the attendees brought diverse perspectives to this meeting, the varied presentation styles, such as short poster teasers, mid-length research talks, and longer, broader spotlight oral presentations helped bring the audience together in scientific discourse. With over 300 oral presentations and over 2200 poster presentations, the variety in presentation styles made ORS 2017 an engaging and dynamic conference to attend.

Knockdown of vimentin may affect chondrogenic
extracellular matrix deposition in high density pellets.
shVim-vimentinknockdown, shLacZ-control.
My research in Dr. Adam H. Hsieh’s Orthopaedic Mechanobiology Lab at the University of Maryland centers on the role of vimentin intermediate filaments in governing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) properties and behavior, including cellular deformability, adhesion, and differentiation, specifically chondrogenesis. After knocking down the expression of vimentin intermediate filaments in human MSCs using RNA interference, we observe how a decrease in vimentin affects differentiation (abstract here). Preliminarily, we’ve found that a decrease in vimentin did not affect adipogenesis or osteogenesis, but may lead to a potential decrease in chondrogenic extracellular matrix deposition, but this needs further exploration. MSCs from RoosterBio have been singular in the progression of my graduate research. The fast growth and consistency of the high quality MSCs have taken the bottleneck of MSC growth out of the equation for my research. Further, using these MSCs and media has dramatically decreased the labor, time, and resources needed to obtain the cell numbers needed for conducting my experiments.

During this conference, I was able to have in-depth conversations about my research as well as exchange ideas and technical tips that will help strengthen my work. Attending ORS allowed me to both present my research through a poster presentation and network with both industry professionals and academic researchers. As I will soon be taking the next step in my career, these interactions helped me to start to home in on the types of opportunities that I would like to pursue and how to prepare myself to excel. Further, attending professional development seminars, such as one regarding the art of negotiation, helped me identify techniques for further developing soft skills.   
One of the most engaging sessions in this conference was a really fun debate about the related futures of regenerative medicine and orthopaedic implants – Will Regenerative Medicine Make Orthopaedic Implants Obsolete in Our Time? It was captivating to hear the discussion about two research and clinical areas that continue to intersect and diverge. Also, the keynote by Dr. Jennifer Doudna summarizing the CRISPR technology that she helped develop was a great overview and the brief discussion about the ethics of gene therapy was thought-provoking.

The research presentations and broader spotlight sessions gave me a great overview of the latest research in my interest areas of regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, cell therapies, and biomaterials. Many of the oral presentations I attended focused on bettering the design of tissue engineered scaffolds. Here are just a few of the research presentations that inspired me:

January 3, 2017

Guest Blog Post: The Ambitious Future of Tissue Engineering

Bagrat Grigoryan and Jordan MillerPhysiologic Systems Engineering & Advanced Materials Lab at Rice University.

Over the last several decades, various advances in tissue engineering have allowed for the not so distant possibility of replacing, repairing, or regenerating injured tissues1. Significant progress has been made in understanding cellular biology as well as pathophysiology and healthy states of tissues. Additionally, a suite of diverse biofabrication technologies and biomaterials has been conceived, enabling fabrication of complex 3D tissues with greater physiological relevance compared to the traditional 2D context that cells are studied in2. However, the field of tissue engineering still has unresolved questions involving choice of fabrication technique, biomaterial, cellular niche, or even cell type when designing a synthetic tissue.

While different fabrication techniques and biomaterials have been explored in fabricating tissues in vitro, the use of stem cells in engineered tissues is ubiquitous. Not surprisingly so, as biologists continually demonstrate novel ways of directing different lineage commitment of stem cells and further unlocking their vast regenerative potential3. Indeed, stem cell banks have emerged to cryogenically store a patient’s own cells as the therapeutic potential of stem cells is being positively demonstrated in multiple clinical trials4. With over 450 mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based trials alone currently ongoing or completed, the regenerative and immunoregulatory properties of MSCs are constantly being exploited to improve the quality of human life5.

Due to the immense therapeutic potential of MSCs, there is a need to rapidly and reproducibly grow a vast amount of MSCs for clinical and research purposes. Although MSCs were identified and isolated from bone marrow more than 40 years ago, we still have not fully mapped their biological characteristics3.