Singapore is making remarkable progress in the realm of cell and gene therapy (CGT), as evidenced by the inauguration of a state-of-the-art 2,000 sq m cell therapy facility. This establishment is a testament to the nation’s commitment to meeting the escalating demand for CGT, ensuring that patients receive these groundbreaking treatments promptly. This move is also timely as Singapore is now regarded as an aged society as 20% of its population of 6.5 million is now above the age of 65 years. This figure will rise to 25% by year 2030.
Facility Insights and Broader Implications:
- Infrastructure and Accessibility: Nestled under the Advanced Cell Therapy and Research Institute, Singapore (Actris) which was formed as a national agency in 2020, the facility boasts 14 clean suites that meet good manufacturing practice standards, four translational laboratories, and a quality control laboratory. This infrastructure is open to hospitals, research institutions, and budding biotech ventures, aiding their research in cell selection and genetic modification. This facility should be available for their use in 2024.
- Precision Medicine and Task Force: A specialized task force, led by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and chaired by Kenneth Mak, the director-general of health, has been established. Comprising clinicians, researchers, and health economists, this team is set to foster the rapidly growing domain of precision medicine.
- Economic and Ethical Aspects: While cell therapies, a subset of precision medicine, are revolutionary, they can be expensive. However, the sheer magnitude of the new facility might lead to a reduction in treatment costs. Minister for Health, Ong Ye Kung, has emphasized the importance of a sustainable financing model and highlighted the ethical challenges posed by gene and cell modifications.
- Strategic Positioning: The facility’s unveiling took place at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) during the inaugural Singapore Cell and Gene Therapy Conference. Its strategic location within NCCS’s new 24-story building on the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus further accentuates its significance.
- Regional Impact: Actris chairman, Chee Yam Cheng, envisions the facility as a transformative force in Singapore’s cell therapy ecosystem. With the ability to produce top-tier cell therapies domestically, patients can access life-saving treatments faster. This initiative is poised to establish Singapore as a leader in the CGT sector in Asia, potentially inspiring neighboring nations to delve into this domain.
CytoMed Therapeutics: Pioneering Affordable Cellular Therapies in the region
Complementing Singapore’s strides in CGT is CytoMed Therapeutics (NASDAQ: GDTC). Originating from Singapore’s renowned Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) in 2018, CytoMed is revolutionizing cellular immunotherapy through their patented cells. Their mission is clear: to engineer cost-effective and potent cellular cancer therapies.
- Innovative Allogeneic off-the-shelf Cell Therapies: CytoMed is translating its patented and patent-pending technologies into gamma delta (γδ) T cells as well as immune cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. These therapies cater to a diverse range of cancers without the use of viral vectors and ease of manufacturing. Noteworthy technologies include the iPSC-γδ NKT Cell Technology and the NKG2DL CAR-γδ T Cell Technology, both of which amplify the body’s innate defense mechanisms against cancer.
- Affordability and Potential Efficacy: In a world where cellular therapies often come with hefty price tags, CytoMed’s approach stands out. Their focus on “allogeneic off-the-shelf” solutions and the utilization of iPSCs aims to democratize access to these treatments. Their broad-spectrum solutions, coupled with their foundation in scientific research, ensure that affordability doesn’t compromise efficacy.
In conclusion, Singapore’s investment in cell and gene therapies, combined with the innovative solutions offered by CytoMed Therapeutics, heralds a new era in medical science. Together, they can potentially transform cellular medicine and healthcare in Singapore and also position the nation as a hub of innovation in the Asian medical landscape.
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