Newcastle University has re-applied an innovative ‘sandpit’ technique to foster collaboration between experts in cell therapies and potential industry partners. One of the results has been a new coordinating group that is a first for Europe.
‘Sandpit events’ are inspired by what happens at a children’s sandpit: many opportunities to try things out then start over; spontaneous creativity; lots of different perspectives; some serious fun.
Dr Lucy Foley from Newcastle University set sandpit events focused on cell therapies. These therapies involve using human cells to cure diseases – for example using beta cells as a potential cure for diabetes. Currently there is a disconnect between remarkable breakthroughs in the lab and large-scale availability.
The question for the sandpit participants was: what would it take to get cell therapies into everyday use? To stimulate new thinking, Dr Foley not only invited academics from Newcastle University’s Medical School but also from the Engineering School and the Business School. In addition, she invited representatives from biotech companies and end-users of the therapies such as surgeons.
From a sandpit event came the idea of setting up a manufacturing user group. The first technical meeting of the Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Product (ATMP) Manufacturing Community attracted by 60 cell therapy practitioners and now there is also a thriving LinkedIn forum.
Dr Foley comments: “The ATMP Manufacturing Community is exactly what the UK industry needs, and the UK is the first country in Europe to have such a coordinating group”.
So time spent playing in the sandpit has proved well worth it.
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