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International collaboration to strengthen the development of ATMPs

Memorandum being signed by Erik Renström, Pancras Hogendoorn and Björn Ekmehag. In the background: Anna Ekström, Sweden's Minister for Education and her Dutch counterpart, Robbert Dijkgraaf. (Photo: Chris Jonker © MinBZ)
Memorandum being signed by three people with two people in the background, and the Swedish, Dutch and EU flags

Skåne University Hospital, Lund University and Leiden University Medical Center will collaborate to develop research, education and care delivery in the field of ATMPs (Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products). That is the essence of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed at the SciLifeLab near Stockholm on Wednesday 12 October, during the state visit of the Dutch Royal couple in Sweden.

During the recent decade, scientific breakthroughs in cell biology and genetics have enabled development of new treatments called Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs). ATMPs are innovative and complex biological drugs based on cells, tissues or genes that offers new groundbreaking opportunities for treatment of a variety of diseases, such as various forms of cancer, Parkinson's disease and genetic blood disorders.

”Developing ATMPs is a high priority in many countries, also in Sweden. The collaboration with Leiden is an important step in a joint gathering of forces in the area. Within the field of ATMP, it is particularly important to link basic research to clinical treatment. Both Lund and Leiden have proven to be in the forefront in these areas”, says Erik Renström,Vice-chancellor of Lund University.

Unlike classical medicines, which are usually developed entirely within the pharmaceutical industry, the majority of ATMPs are developed using academic innovation as a starting point. The Stem Cell Center at Lund University has for example already developed a number of ATMPs that are in clinical trials. More therapeutic products with the potential to reach patients in the future, are under development.

”This collaboration is important for the future development of ATMPs. It means that we will get greater opportunities to offer ATMP treatments to seriously ill patients.”, says Björn Ekmehag, Head of Administration at Skåne University Hospital.

Many ATMP products also rely on healthcare providers as a link in the development process. Bringing these new therapies to patients requires collaboration and coordination between leading academic and clinical centres.

”It is important to build strategic collaborations both nationally and internationally, in order to develop the field of ATMPs. Together we can be a force in bringing new treatments more quickly to the patients”, says Björn Ekmehag.

Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) has a leading position in the field of ATMP with state of the art facilities. In 2022 it established a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practise) facility for manufacturing and process development of cell and gene therapies. At Skåne University Hospital in Lund, ATMP work is already at play. A top modern ATMP centre is under construction and will be established in 2024. Nationally, Lund University is one of the leading universities regarding research in cell, tissue and gene therapy.

Healthcare and academy in both Lund and Leiden are collaborating closely with important innovation environments and research infrastructure. In Leiden, among others Bio Science Park and in Lund for example, Medicon Village, MAX IV and ESS - all located in Medicon Valley, one of Europe's strongest life science clusters.

The collaboration that is now underway is broad and covers areas such as research, exchange of researchers, education, clinical studies, development of therapeutic products, collaboration with industry and care delivery. The joint forces between Lund and Leiden have the potential to grow into one of the strongest international hubs for ATMP development. With the signed memorandum, the process now enters a negotiation phase to agree on which activities the three parties will work on during coming years.

”By building strategic collaborations both nationally and internationally we can combine necessary disease-specific expertise, capacity for innovative research and we create access to more donor and patient material.“ says Pancras Hogendoorn, professor and dean at LUMC.