Navigating the Journey to Developing Successful Rare Disease Cell and Gene Therapies

Cell and gene therapies have the potential to change the way rare diseases are treated, offering novel and more effective treatments for patients with limited options. This article explores the various options available from the government to help rare disease drug developers, the importance of preclinical testing to develop cell and gene therapies, as well as what early-stage cell and gene therapy companies need to know when they are trying to develop a rare disease treatment.

Section 1: Preclinical Studies are Needed to Support Cell and Gene Therapy Development

Preclinical testing is a critical step to develop cell and gene therapies for rare diseases. These tests determine the safety and efficacy of a new treatment before it is tested in humans. Preclinical tests provide crucial information about how the therapy behaves in the body, what side effects it may cause, and how it affects various tissues and organs.

Preclinical contract research organizations (CROs) offer a range of services to help companies conduct preclinical testing. These services include laboratory testing, animal testing, and other support services, such as regulatory consulting and data analysis. By partnering with a preclinical CRO, companies can ensure that their therapies undergo rigorous testing, and are safe and effective, before they are tested in humans.

The role of preclinical CROs in the development of cell and gene therapies is crucial. They provide the expertise and resources needed to conduct complex and time-consuming preclinical testing, and they help companies navigate the regulatory landscape. By working with preclinical CROs, companies can focus on developing therapies while the CROs take care of the testing and regulatory requirements.

Services Offered by a Preclinical CRO:

A preclinical CRO can offer a range of services to companies in the early stages of cell and gene therapy product development, including:

  • Cell line and vector characterization
  • In vitro testing of safety and efficacy
  • In vivo testing in animal models
  • Non-clinical toxicology studies
  • Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) compliance
  • Regulatory support and submission services

Learn more with these helpful resources for the importance of preclinical testing in rare disease gene and cell therapy development:

  1. Preclinical CROs: https://noblelifesci.com/
  2. Cell & Gene Therapy Products: https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/cellular-gene-therapy-products
  3. Preclinical Research: https://www.fda.gov/patients/drug-development-process/step-2-preclinical-research

Section 2: What do Early-stage Cell and Gene Therapy Companies Need to Know When Developing a Rare Disease Treatment

Early-stage cell and gene therapy companies face many challenges when trying to develop a treatment for a rare disease. It is important for these companies to consider several key factors in order to be successful.

Here are the important factors to consider when developing a rare disease treatment:

  1. Understanding the underlying biology of the disease: First, it is important to have a deep understanding of the underlying biology of the disease. A thorough understanding of the biological mechanisms behind the disease is critical to develop a successful cell or gene therapy. This requires extensive research, which may also involve collaboration with academic institutions or industry partners. Companies should take the time to thoroughly research the disease and identify any existing gaps in treatment options. This will help to better understand the unmet medical need and to determine the best approach for developing a new treatment.
  2. Patient population and unmet medical need: It’s important to have a clear understanding of the patient population with the rare disease and the unmet medical need for its treatment. This includes the size of the patient population, the severity of the disease, and the current treatment options available.
  3. Regulatory requirements: The regulatory requirements for cell and gene therapies can be complex and may vary depending on the specific disease and jurisdiction. It is important for early-stage companies to both understand the regulatory landscape and work with experienced partners to ensure compliance. The FDA has specific requirements for the development of cell and gene therapies, companies must be familiar with these requirements in order to navigate the regulatory landscape successfully.
  4. Manufacturing and supply chain considerations: Cell and gene therapies often require a specialized manufacturing process and a reliable supply chain. Early-stage companies should consider these factors and work with experienced partners to ensure a reliable product supply. Companies must have a plan in place to produce their therapies, as well as the necessary resources and expertise to manufacture their treatments at scale.
  5. Clinical development: Clinical development is a crucial step to bring a cell or gene therapy to the market. It is important for early-stage companies to have a well-designed clinical development plan, including a clear understanding of the endpoints and regulatory requirements, as well as access to experienced clinical trial teams. Companies must conduct well-designed clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their therapies. They must also have a plan in place to recruit patients and must consider the cost and feasibility of conducting trials.
  6. Reimbursement and market access: Reimbursement and market access are important considerations for any cell or gene therapy, especially for rare diseases which may have a small patient population. Early-stage companies should consider the reimbursement landscape, create funding and commercialization strategies, and work with experienced partners to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.

The development of cell and gene therapies for rare diseases is a rapidly growing field, with the potential to provide life-changing treatments for patients with limited options. With the support of government programs alongside the expertise of preclinical CROs, early-stage cell and gene therapy companies have the resources and tools to bring new and effective treatments to patients in need.

However, it is important for these companies to have a thorough understanding of the underlying biology of the disease, the patient population and unmet medical needs, and the regulatory requirements, as well as to have a well-designed clinical development plan and strategy for reimbursement and market access.

In conclusion, the development of a cell or gene therapy for a rare disease is a complex and challenging process, but one with a great potential to make a meaningful impact on patients’ lives. Early-stage companies should be aware of these key considerations and work with experienced partners to ensure a successful outcome.

Learn more with these helpful resources for what early-stage cell and gene therapy companies need to know when trying to develop a rare disease treatment:

  1. Pathway analyses and understanding disease associations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3851310/
  2. FDA is Working to Bridge Gaps and Meet Needs for Rare Disease Product Development: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-voices/fda-working-bridge-gaps-and-meet-needs-rare-disease-product-development
  3. Cell & Gene Therapy Product Guidances: https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/biologics-guidances/cellular-gene-therapy-guidances

Section 3: What are the Regulatory Pathways to support Rare Disease Drug Development?

The development of treatments for rare diseases can be a challenging and costly process. Fortunately, there are various options available from the government to help rare disease drug developers. One of the most valuable is the FDA’s Orphan Drug Designation program, which is granted to drugs that are intended to treat, diagnose, or prevent a rare disease or condition affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. The designation provides benefits such as tax credits for clinical trial costs, expedited review and approval, and seven years of market exclusivity.

Another option is the Priority Review Voucher program, which was established to develop treatments for neglected tropical diseases and rare pediatric diseases. Through this program, a company that obtains approval for a drug to treat a qualifying disease can receive a priority review voucher, which can expedite the review of a subsequent marketing application for a different drug.

These are just a few of the options available from the government to help rare disease drug developers. For a full list of resources to help speed up the development and approval of treatments for patients in need, see below:

  1. Orphan Drug Designation: Orphan Drug Designation is a program established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provides incentives to develop treatments for rare diseases. Companies that receive orphan drug designation are eligible for various benefits, including tax credits, clinical trial grants, and a seven-year period of market exclusivity following approval.
  2. Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher (PRV): The U.S. government Rare Pediatric Disease PRV program provides priority review and fast-track approval of a new drug application for a rare pediatric disease. The voucher can also be sold or transferred, providing additional funding to support the development of other rare disease treatments.
  3. Advance Market Commitment (AMC): The AMC is an international initiative that provides funding to develop vaccines for neglected diseases. The program provides a guaranteed market for a vaccine once it has been developed, helping to reduce the financial risk for vaccine developers.
  4. Research Grants and Funding: Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), provide research grants and funding to support the development of treatments for rare diseases.
  5. Regulatory Incentives: In addition to the Orphan Drug Designation, government agencies, such as the FDA, offer other regulatory incentives to develop treatments for rare diseases, including fast-track approval, accelerated approval, and priority review.*

These programs can provide important funding and regulatory support to help bring new treatments to patients with rare diseases.

Learn more with these helpful resources for government options to help rare disease drug developers:

  1. Orphan Drug Designation: https://www.fda.gov/industry/medical-products-rare-diseases-and-conditions/designating-orphan-product-drugs-and-biological-products
  2. Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher (PRV): https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/rare-pediatric-disease-priority-review-vouchers
  3. Advance Market Commitment (AMC): https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/kremer/files/amc_pp_20_20_01_13.pdf
  4. NORD Research Grants and Funding: https://rarediseases.org/advancing-research/request-for-proposals/
  5. Regulatory Incentives: https://www.fda.gov/industry/medical-products-rare-diseases-and-conditions

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