A scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology is piloting a new national initiative to make the U.S. the world leader in biomanufacturing of cell therapies – projected to be a $10 billion global industry within a decade.
Todd McDevitt, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Stem Cell Engineering Center, is leading the launch of the nation-wide Cell Manufacturing Consortium, an effort that will be funded by a $499,636 planning grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), announced Thursday by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
The grant is being administered through the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), the lead agency joined by nine founding partners, a collection of research universities and industries from almost every corner of the country.
“A planning grant of this size is significant, and it lays the groundwork for something larger and more compelling,” says McDevitt, also a Petit Faculty Fellow in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
One potential goal would be winning designation as an Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI), part of President Obama’s proposed National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a $1 billion federal initiative to create system of 45 regional hubs, each focused on the development and application of different cutting-edge manufacturing technologies. So far, the NNMIs that have been named (such as the digital manufacturing institute in Chicago, announced in February) have ensnared federal grants valued at $30 to $70 million.
The GRA leads a consortium funding partnership that includes Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, the University of Wisconsin (Madison), the University of California (Berkeley), North Carolina State University, Aruna Biomedical (Athens, Ga.), Cellgene Cellular Therapeutics (Warren, N.J.), and RoosterBio (Frederick, Md.). These entities will try to work the snowball effect, gathering others to the cause as they move forward. That’s already happening, says McDevitt, who has been fielding a growing tide of interest from academia and industry.
Greg Dane, an industry fellow with GRA, will lead the new consortium’s development efforts along with McDevitt, who is the scientific technical lead.
“The success of our proposal was the result of an unselfish team effort of multiple people,” McDevitt says. “Based on their mission to foster the development of advanced technologies that can have significant and meaningful economic impact, the Georgia Research Alliance was a natural entity to lead this proposal.”
“In addition, we benefitted tremendously from the experience of people like [founding Petit Institute director and professor emeritus] Bob Nerem and Ben Wang from Georgia Tech's Manufacturing Institute, to put together a project of this scope.”
The presence of the Stem Cell Engineering Center as well as the NSF-funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program in Stem Cell Biomanufacturing almost certainly played a role in NIST’s decision, and GRA’s trust, as Georgia Tech continues to solidify its standing as a hub of research activities in biomanufacturing.
“Working together, GRA, Georgia Tech, and our other consortium partners can more readily accelerate the growth of the domestic cell manufacturing industry than individuals or small groups working independently,” says C. Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance. “Georgia Tech and its faculty have a strong reputation in bioengineering and will show excellent technical leadership for the consortium.”