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Microsoft, Oxford Biomedica to apply cloud, machine learning to improving gene therapy

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A British cell and gene therapy company is partnering up with the world’s largest software company to improve gene therapy vectors using cloud computing and machine learning.

Oxford, UK-based Oxford Biomedica said it would work with the Station B initiative at Microsoft Research to find ways to increase the yield and improve the purity of its lentiviral vectors, while also reducing their cost.

Most gene therapies in development today rely on viral vectors, whereby a specially engineered virus is used to transfect cells that carry defective genes and insert the corrected genes into them. The only gene therapy with Food and Drug Administration approval, Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl), used for a rare inherited form of blindness, uses an adeno-associated viral vector. Another company that uses lentiviral vectors is bluebird bio, whose product candidate, LentiGlobin, is in development for sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. Oxford Biomedica’s platform is called LentiVector.

Under the two-year, extendable collaboration, Oxford Biomedica will contribute large data sets for analysis using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Meanwhile, Microsoft will work with Oxford Biomedica’s scientists to use cloud computing and machine learning to develop computerized models of new algorithms to advance cell and gene delivery technology.

“The collaboration with Microsoft Research will harness our rich data resources to offer greater insights into the biological processes required to enhance quality and optimize yields of lentiviral vectors,” Oxford Biomedica Chief Business Officer Jason Slingsby said in a statement. “Our goal is to enable faster, cheaper and more reliable manufacture of high-quality, next-generation cell and gene therapies to allow more patients to benefit.”

Oxford Biomedica has a large product pipeline across ophthalmology, central nervous system diseases, oncology and others. It has intellectual property in Novartis’s CAR-T therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), approved in the US and EU for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia and adult diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, along with another undisclosed CAR-T therapy licensed by Novartis that is in Phase I/II development.

Photo: MF3d, Getty Images

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