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CERTERA: Research in advanced therapies

The Vall d’Hebron University Hospital Accredited Health Institute (IIS-IR-HUVH) will receive 2.6 million euros over the next three years after being one of the centers selected by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III for the creation of the Spanish state consortium CERTERA in advanced therapies. The project, in which teams from Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) collaborate, is the third that has received more funding in this call.

The objective of the State Network Consortium for the Development of Advanced Therapy Drugs (CERTERA) is to create a research and innovation structure that allows the coordination and amplification of the capacities and competences of the different entities that participate in order to provide pharmaceutical-quality development and production capacity for advanced therapy drugs in preclinical and early-stage clinical phases. It will also enable the establishment of strategic alliances with the industrial sector and facilitate the creation of an innovation ecosystem.

In this sense, Vall d’Hebron has two main structures designed for the development of advanced therapies: the Advanced Therapies Acceleration Unit of VHIO and the Vector Production Units, both viral and non-viral, of VHIR.

Regarding the VHIO’s Advanced Therapies Acceleration Unit, it is mainly dedicated to the clinical development of cell therapies. The production of TIL cells, i.e. the patient’s own lymphocytes, which are cultured and activated ex-vivo before being administered back to the patient with the aim of improving the response to the tumor, stand out. Also of interest are CAR-T cells, a treatment based on extracting cells from the immune system of patients, genetically modifying them and re-infusing them into the patient, stand out. In the case of tumors, this change allows the modified cells to attack the tumor cells.

Cell therapies require the use of vectors to introduce the modified genetic material into the cells. The Vector Production Unit is a technological platform of VHIR and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) that is responsible for the production, purification and characterization of viral vectors used for in vivo gene therapies led by public and private institutions at national and international level.

In addition, VHIR’s Nanotechnology-Based Non-Viral Vector Production Unit is specialized in the use of nanoparticles for the creation of new vectors. These non-viral vectors, if used together with viral vectors, can help to improve CAR-T and TIL therapies.

This call, which has highlighted the capabilities and experience of Vall d’Hebron in the field of clinical trials and technology and knowledge transfer, will also help to advance all the research in advanced therapies that is developed in the Campus.

VHIR Annual Report 2023