New Chinese-British joint venture claims major breakthrough in customized treatments
Miniaturization is changing the face of medicine, and a device used to make cellular medicine that has until now needed the space of a small room will soon be sitting on hospital desktops.
Helping to drive the breakthrough is a partnership between two companies, one Chinese and the other British, to produce a bioreactor that makes the medicine.
Cellular medicine can be used to treat diseases or ailments such as spinal injuries where cells need to be grown to replace old cells.
The bioreactor acts as an incubator to grow cells, which then need to undergo a complicated process to become cellular medicine, given to the patient in a liquid form.
With China's cost advantage, it is hoped the new joint venture will reduce the cost of making bioreactors.
The joint venture is called
Most of the jobs in
"As a traditional manufacturing company it is a big achievement for us to move into a niche manufacturing industry through this joint venture," says Zhang Qingliang, chairman of Union Shengxin.
"It is a good way for us to gain great technology and know-how, which will help us improve our manufacturing capability."
Union Shengxin was founded in
In recent years its products have been sold overseas, including in
Union Shengxin's expertise in pump manufacturing greatly contributed to the joint venture with Cell Therapy being formed, because each bioreactor has two small pumps as key components, Zhang says.
Union Shengxin has invested 5 million pounds (
"Initially when we entered talks with Cell Therapy, they wanted us to just make the pumps, but we wanted to contribute more to the joint venture, so we said we would manufacture the whole bioreactor," Zhang says.
Zhang says his company has decided that the bioreactors should use disposable pumps, ensuring the pumps used for making each batch of medicine are completely clean.
"We want to produce a bioreactor that patients can trust, with the comfort of mind that it is clean and safe."
Making the pump element of the bioreactor accounts for about 20 percent of the total manufacturing cost, he says.
The executive director of Cell Therapy, Ajan Reginald, says
Cellular medicines have existed for only the past five to 10 years, Reginald says.
"The thing that really held back this technology is that we have never been able to manufacture cellular medicines cheaply, or in small enough areas where hospitals can manufacture them. With this breakthrough, medicines can be manufactured in a desktop machine rather than in a room-sized bioreactor."
Reginald says existing bioreactors can be three meters in diameter, but the ones
"It will increase access and enable research to be undertaken at a much lower cost and with much more ease. It allows doctors to treat their patients on an individual basis, and laboratories are able to arrange more focused treatment for their clients."
Those likely to use bioreactors are hospitals and research organizations, including laboratories in hospitals and universities.
The bioreactor is developed by Cell Therapy, which has already tested the prototype. Without the capability for full-scale manufacturing, it had looked for partners who were strong in manufacturing, initially choosing between half a dozen potential partners with expertise in making pumps.
Reginald says Union Shengxin was chosen because of its great expertise and its strong commitment to contributing to the project. The two partners were introduced to each other by Gao Shuangming, director of
Zhang says dedication has been a key to his company's striking the deal. Since his first trip to the
"Each time we have come to the
Zhang says that after the bioreactors are made,
"Our partners from Cell Therapy will help us a lot with sales by providing us with training, because they know the product very well, and this knowledge is very important in the sales process."
Cell Therapy was founded in 2009 by the Nobel laureate
Two years ago Cell Therapy started a partnership with Zhongyuan Union Stem Cell Bioengineering, a
The two partners established a joint venture to research and develop a new type of innovative stem cell medicine for heart disease, which may begin clinical trials soon, and if all goes as hoped the medicines could be put on the market in about four years.
Union Shengxin, which is listed on the Tianjin Equity Exchange, wants to receive more global exposure by listing overseas, and is preparing to do so on the
"We hope to also develop R&D facilities in
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