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Development Agency FDANews New gene therapy laboratory at the Biofactory Competence Center in Fribourg

New gene therapy laboratory at the Biofactory Competence Center in Fribourg

The Biofactory Competence Center (BCC) in Fribourg, Switzerland, is inaugurating its new gene therapy laboratory this Wednesday. This state-of-the-art facility will meet the growing needs of the Swiss biopharmaceutical industry in terms of the training of specialized personnel and the production of drugs. As a result of a close collaboration with Pall Corporation, this laboratory further strengthens the BCC as a global center of expertise in the manufacture of viral vectors for gene therapy. This is a flagship project for the canton of Fribourg, which plays an important role in this field, and contributes closely to the search for life-saving therapies.

Gene therapy research is booming, opening up promising prospects for the treatment of many diseases, such as certain cancers and genetic diseases including various forms of haemophilia. Recently, the rapid development of specific vaccines against Covid-19 has also highlighted the potential of these techniques.

Meeting the need for highly qualified personnel

The Biofactory Competence Center (BCC) in Fribourg is a unique biopharmaceutical training and research facility in Switzerland. The new gene therapy laboratory, which is inaugurated on 7 September 2022, will meet the growing needs of the Swiss biopharmaceutical industry, particularly for highly qualified personnel.

The new viral vector / gene therapy facility will enable the production of viral vectors for use in the treatment of many medical conditions, including some cancers, hereditary diseases and vaccines. It will be offered for training of personnel from basic to advanced levels, for the design of processes for new products and to support companies working in this field. Ian Marison, founder and CEO of the BCC, says: “All training is carried out under realistic industrial conditions and combines theory and practice. It will highlight key advantages of viral vector manufacturing for gene therapy, and how best to leverage current resources and future goals. This new laboratory opens perspectives in terms of training and research to meet the growing needs of the Swiss biopharmaceutical industry.”

Partnership with industry

Since its inception in 2016, the BCC has always had an approach geared towards the needs of the biopharmaceutical industry, providing theoretical and practical training, research collaborations or designing modular infrastructure for biopharmaceutical production and training. This new laboratory is a further development of the partnership with Pall Corporation initiated in November 2017.

For Pall Corporation, partners like the BCC are instrumental in building a resilient life sciences industry in the future. Clive Glover, General Manager of Gene Therapy at Pall Corporation, says: “It’s a genuine thrill to see these lab doors open. By providing scientists the hands-on opportunities to use technology from the life sciences companies at Danaher Corporation (Pall, Cytiva, and Beckman Coulter Life Sciences) in their workflows, we’re helping build expertise and fostering talent in the growing field of gene therapy. This opening clearly demonstrates our shared intent to empower every scientist to become a genomic medicine developer.” The state-of-the-art facility includes bioreactors for both adherent and suspension cell culture, purification systems, mixing, filtration and fluid handling technology, supported with associated analytics from fellow Danaher operating companies Cytiva and Beckman Coulter Life Sciences.

A benefit for students and applied research

Through its multiple relationships and collaborations with the biopharmaceutical industry, in particular with Pall Corporation, BCC, as an entity of the Fribourg School of Engineering and Architecture, HEIA-FR, reinforces the vital links between Fribourg University of Applied Sciences and the regional and even international economic context. Both the teaching of the students and the HEIA-FR activities in applied research benefit from such links. For Jean-Nicolas Aebischer, Director of the HEIA-FR, this partnership is a win-win situation: “In each partnership, it is important to establish and preserve a symmetry of interests. Our school has an interest in having access to sophisticated equipment at the cutting edge of technology. Pall Corporation is interested in enough highly qualified personnel so that patients can get access to this new therapy. This partnership is exemplary and the BCC, as well as respectively the HEIA-FR, are very happy to be able to continue and intensify the collaborations with Pall Corporation through this viral vector manufacturing laboratory.”

A flagship project for Fribourg

This new facility further strengthens Fribourg’s position as a canton dedicated to training and development, at the forefront of research while being close to the practice and needs of the economy by offering targeted innovation support measures. Jerry Krattiger Director of the Economic Development Agency of Fribourg, PromFR is proud: “The establishment of this new laboratory will have a strong impact on Fribourg as a business and science location. We are particularly happy and proud of this new accomplishment of the close collaboration between Pall Corporation and the Biofactory Competence Center, two flagships of Fribourg’s economy. This new laboratory opens new perspectives for them.

The new facility reinforces the positioning of the canton of Fribourg on the Swiss and European map of innovations in Life Sciences, an essential pillar of the canton’s economy, and more specifically for the development and the production of viral vectors and the provision of new gene therapies.