Physicians, scientists and leaders from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the global pharmaceutical company Novartis will gather Tuesday evening to unveil the Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics (CACT). Located on Penn Medicine’s campus amidst both clinical care and laboratory facilities, the CACT is poised to become an epicenter for research and early development of personalized cellular therapies for cancer, expanding on Penn’s groundbreaking research using Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) technology, which enables a patient’s own immune cells to be reprogrammed outside of their body and re-infused to hunt for and potentially destroy their tumors.
“In only a few years, we have generated significant achievements that have moved the field of personalized cellular therapies forward, opening clinical trials to test these treatments not only for patients with blood cancers, but also those with solid tumors,” said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. “The CACT will allow us to leverage this progress to develop and test new approaches more quickly and expand our ability to manufacture personalized cell therapies for a greater number of trials.”
The new facility is a marquee component of Penn's translational science efforts to expedite the development of novel therapies for many types of disease. The collaboration with Novartis was announced in August 2012, when the two organizations entered an exclusive global research and licensing agreement to further study and commercialize novel CAR therapies. The CACT was constructed in part through a $20 million investment from Novartis, and will employ 100 highly specialized cell therapy professionals working across 23,610 square feet of laboratory and cell therapy manufacturing space.
“The opening of the Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics is a significant milestone in our collaboration with Penn,” said Mark C. Fishman, MD, President of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “It is our hope that discoveries will be made at this facility that could one day lead to new medicines to help cancer patients around the world.”