The new McKinsey Center helps clients develop skills in cell and gene therapy technology

A New Jersey oneThe growing industry is the life sciences. It is already home to some of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in the world, and is now home to our newest Digital Capability Center. Aimed at the life sciences, with a focus on cell and gene therapies, the center was developed in collaboration with the New Jersey Institute of Innovation and is managed by BioCentriq.

McKinsey has 12 such facilities worldwide. They are immersive learning environments where people can develop new skills by experimenting with digital technologies, exploring new ways of working that will be key to success, and planning the transformation of their operations both within and outside their walls.

Cell therapies and genes are next-generation treatments for some diseases. Traditional medicine often requires repeated dosing, sometimes with negative side effects, and these new therapies are given individually to the patient, which can have lasting benefits. Literally, cell and gene therapies restore, modify, or replace the body’s cells or genes to prevent, treat, and sometimes cure diseases — some of which were previously incurable. They are often effective in a single dose.

The FDA has approved twenty-three gene therapies with promising results in treating diseases such as blood cancer, hemophilia, congenital blindness and spinal muscle atrophy, the leading genetic cause of death in children.

“Five years ago these treatments were just ideas that were being tested in very small clinical trials,” explains McKinsey partner Katie Kelleher, Andrea Gennari, and a group of experts who founded the center. “Now they are a growing therapeutic area, and these industries are starting to be commercialized. But they are very tedious, complex and expensive to produce, and many businesses are not ready for that. ”

The new Digital Capability Center can help here. “Life science companies are under pressure to hire talent everywhere and grow rapidly, while improving quality and reliability,” says Andrea.

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Using virtual reality technologies, operators can train people in new procedures without the need for real equipment or supervisors who can focus on production.

In particular, the new facility simulates the autologous CAR-T manufacturing process, a therapy used to treat cancer. There, the cells are removed from a hospital patient, transported to a laboratory, where they are purified and modified, and then re-injected into the patient.

“It’s a complicated week-long process that requires highly skilled technicians,” explains Emily Simon, McKinsey’s solution manager. “For example, cells need to be frozen in liquid nitrogen during transport to ensure stopping.” Several demos conducted in the lab show how digital technologies can improve efficiency at various points in the process. One use case focuses on how to optimize yield through advanced analysis, which can increase production through more productive cell growth or greater cell viability in the laboratory.

“Hundreds of factors can affect performance,” says Emily. “From the attributes of the raw material — the serums and buffers of your cells — to the health of the patient who created the cells, to the factors of the process itself: temperature, pH, oxygen levels.” Predictive modeling using advanced analytics can help a laboratory technician predict potential problems, identify the causes, and identify suitable conditions for the growth of new replacement cells.

When you see digital technologies come to life, you can truly realize their full potential.

A new participant in our Center for Digital Competence in Cell and Gene Therapy

In another use case, augmented reality and virtualization technologies help train laboratory technicians in basic skills such as changing cell culture media. They can also be used to provide a refresher course for complex processes by working with a virtual version of the equipment; this allows the equipment and operator to be focused on actual production.

The program is for leaders who are undergoing half-day workshops for leaders who are showing “what the future holds” and are doing a complete transformation to four-day problem-solving and skills development classes.

The center has already taken on a number of clients, and has perhaps created moments of vision and impact that can only be realized in this cutting-edge practical environment. “When you see digital technologies come to life,” one recent participant noted, “you can truly realize their full potential.”

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