Just 50 years after scientists discovered transplantable stem cells, a plan has been proposed to create a facility which would mass produce stem cells into disease-fighting cells – a process which is currently slow and labour intensive.
The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), in Toronto wants to create a partially automated factory to speed up the process that has the potential of saving tens of thousands of lives.
Development is already underway by CCRM and General Electric Company’s health division
“This is Canada’s chance to own stem cell manufacturing,” says CCRM President Michael May,
“We’re putting together all the processes and equipment for a blueprint for cell manufacturing in the future.”
Canada isn’t the only country to see the future in mass stem cell technology. Drug companies all around the world are beginning to build their own stem cell factories. Japan is also making fast progress in the stem cell industry.
Canada is already a leader in artificial intelligence and has some of the highest concentrations of biotech researchers in the world.
Canada’s stem cell sector, mainly based out of Toronto, has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of investment over recent years. Stem cell start-ups are growing in number, and with them the demand for stem cells is growing. This points to a greater need for stem cells to supply trials – billions of stem cells are needed for research.
Currently, the manufacturing of stem cells is a long and complicated process involving putting cells in a small bowl and feeding them to then transfer them into a unique environment with ideal temperature and oxygen levels. The cells must be constantly monitored to prevent contamination. This process is resource intensive and takes several weeks.
The cell factory under consideration will be partly automated allowing the cultivation of many stem cells at once, under ideal conditions. The data from current cell facilities will be used to train artificial intelligence algorithms, which will learn over time the perfect optimisation for the production of cell-based therapies.
General Electric is currently investing in advancing cell-based therapies that can be transferred to commercial factories for mass production, including the one CCRM envisions for the future.