Limula SA, a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, announced that it has been awarded a CHF 2.5 million (€ 2.5 million) non-dilutive Accelerator grant from Innosuisse, the Swiss innovation agency. Following a three-stage evaluation process, Limula was selected amongst the 753 Swiss start-ups and SMEs that submitted a proposal. With a total budget of CHF 112 million, Innosuisse aims to support 53 of the country’s most promising start-up companies in their market entry phase.
Cell & Gene Therapies: from treatments to cures
Over the past five years, six cancer therapies based on gene-edited cells – called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells – have been approved in the USA and in Europe, and many more are in development. Spectacular results were obtained in young children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but also in adults with other forms of blood cancers, many of them remaining cancer-free more than a decade after receiving a single injection. With more under evaluation at pre-clinical stage and in clinical trials, Cell and Gene Therapy products have the potential to cure millions of patients globally each year. These ‘living drugs’ leverage the latest discoveries in cellular engineering and oncology and provide the immune system with a significant boost against previously uncurable tumors. Unfortunately, with a cost of up to half a million Swiss francs per patient, these life-saving treatments remain unavailable to most patients suffering from what are now curable conditions. This is in part because obtaining CAR T and other cell therapy products from the patients’ own cells still involves many manual steps, making them too complex and too expensive to produce at scale.
Addressing the manufacturing bottleneck with automation
To address the problem of manufacturing capacity, Limula is developing a closed, automated, and modular cell processing device. The unique technology developed by Limula has the potential to enable carrying out every step of the complex process in a single self-contained device, with minimal operator intervention. This solution decreases the need for large clean room facilities that are costly to build and maintain. It also prevents errors and contamination stemming from human manipulations. Limula aim to provide an enabling tool for clinical centers and biopharma companies involved in the development of new cell therapy products. The ambition is to provide an enabling technology key to scalable manufacturing of these revolutionary and highly personalized cures.
Fresh non-dilutive funding supporting the industrialisation of a first product
Over the past 2 years, Limula has collaborated with several academic and industrial partners to develop an automated solution suitable for cell processing across different applications. After a successful proof of concept and a series of pilot tests with early adopters using a functional prototype, this additional funding will provide Limula with the financial means to embark on the industrialization of its first product. The objective is to bring to market a device and a single use consumable that are meeting GMP requirements, to be used by cell therapy providers in their transition from pre-clinical evaluation to clinical trials, and later commercial scale manufacturing of clinical-grade cell products.