This Phase I/II STTR Fast Track proposal responds to the call from the 2018/2019 NCATS SBIR/STTR Research Priorities to develop technologies so that ?new treatments and cures for disease can be delivered to patients more quickly?. The production of life-altering gene editing vectors, cancer killing viruses, and life- saving vaccines currently depends on traditional cell culture techniques. A number of virus-based and cell- based therapies have become clinical treatments for cancer, for genetically-related blindness, for immunodeficiency, and for inborn errors of metabolism. In this exciting field, many therapies being developed are on waitlists to be tested. However, current cell culture-based production is costly and slow to attend the existing demand. For instance, a clinical trial for AAV-based gene editing requires 1016-17 viral particles, a quantity currently requiring a year for production and costing 1-2 million dollars. Thus, the cost of $400,000 to $1,400,000 per patient for recently approved gene medicines is not surprising. These price tags simply are not sustainable for society. In the event of a pandemic, it would take years to generate sufficient doses of vaccines to protect the 7 billion world population by current production methods. Thus, increasing the efficiency and speed of culture of production cell lines are common goals for manufacturing of gene editing vectors, oncolytic viruses, and vaccines. Our joint research efforts at XDemics Corporation, the California Institute of Technology, and the City of Hope National Medical Center, have resulted in an improved method of cell culture. Based on a known fact that oxygen delivery is the most rate-limiting process for increasing cell density, viability, and virus production we created a novel high density cell respirator (HDCR) (US Patent no. 10,053,660) from highly oxygen permeable material that can be inexpensively molded into large sheets, with integrated cell retention architecture, for efficient membrane oxygenation of adherent or suspension cells. Our hypothesis is that elimination of shear stress and the low flow media delivery through the HDCR, enabled by the decoupling of gas exchange via membrane oxygenation of cells, will allow for improved yield, decreased cost, and increased speed of production of therapeutic viral vectors and viruses. We have preliminary data confirming this hypothesis and have produced prototypes for optimization. Herein we propose Phase I studies to optimize the design of the HDCR for cell growth and demonstrate virus production. Proposed Phase II studies will consist of research and development of production processes for multiple viral vectors, including AAV and immuno- oncolytic poxvirus/vaccine. We expect that the HDCR will disrupt the field of vector and virus production, by allowing >10 times greater efficiency and >2-10 times greater speed of production. Our long-term goal is to speed up production of clinically-relevant quantities of viral medicines and vaccines from years down to months. Decreasing the cost of gene therapy vectors, cell-based immunotherapies, and vaccines will accelerate development of novel therapies for treating cancers, gene defects, and infectious diseases.
Current technologies to produce viral based medicines and vaccines are too expensive and too inefficient to meet the demands of the growing field of genetic medicine, and will be unable to supply the global need for vaccines if a pandemic occurs. Our research team at XDemics Corporation, the California Institute of Technology, and the City of Hope National Medical Center has created a new technology for growing cells and producing genetic medicines, named high density cell respirator (HDCR), which delivers oxygen and nutrients separately, that should make it at least 10 times more efficient and two to ten times faster at producing viruses and gene medicines, compared to current technologies. This project proposes to finalize the design of the HDCR for widespread use and to design the production of two promising viral based medicines using the HDCR in order to bring this more cost-effective and time-effective production method to clinical use.