Efforts to make cell and gene therapies cheaper with innovative technology have largely focused on the factory floor. But industry can do more to reduce prices—and increase patient access—if it applies the same approach to post-production procedures.

Cell and gene therapies need to become less expensive, says John Fink, general manager, liquid handling, and microfluidics at PerkinElmer.

“Generally, in order for insurance to pay for common cell therapy treatments, the CoGs [cost of goods] will have to come down so the cost to the payer is affordable,” he explains. “A bad scenario is a widely applicable lifesaving cell therapy that only the wealthiest few can afford.”

He cites Provenge (Sipuleucel-T), a prostate cancer cell therapy developed by Dendreon as an example, explaining the product “saw reduced access due to cost.”

Post-production tech role

Innovative technology can help make therapies more widely available, particularly if developers innovate every stage of the supply chain—from manufacturing plant to patient.

“Digital has many avenues,” notes Fink. “At one end, just the ability to real-time track a valuable cell therapy shipment and see the temperature and history would make a difference. Likewise, the ability to get a notification confirming that a product was shipped in appropriate conditions would help reduce wastage.”

Monitoring how the cell or gene therapy is handled at the clinic is another potential application of digital technology.

“We often think that storage and shipments are difficult, but the mostly uncontrolled clinic logistics is a place where digital technologies can help monitor and streamline,” Fink tells GEN. “Not only should we digitally track cell therapy products to the clinic receiving dock, but there should also be control and records to the bedside until infusion.”

Standards and leadership

Fink and colleagues from industry and academia looked at how the wider application of technologies can help to reduce the cost of cell and gene therapies in a recent study.

Another finding is that the cell and gene therapy sector needs to learn from other parts of the biopharmaceutical sector. “The mAb sector has achieved massive cost reductions because the industry standardized,” he points out. “Cell and gene therapy has to get there too to really see costs come down.”

To achieve such cost reduction, larger companies will need to take the lead.

“We do feel the industry is looking at this and is making some moves, but much research is done at small companies who are not concerned with scaleup/commercialization,” says Fink. “As advocated in the paper, CoGs need to be considered early on so that good decisions can be made before later stages when it is difficult and expensive to change.”