For over a century after the Civil War, Philadelphia laid claim to being the “Workshop of the World,” producing trains, tools, textiles and a multitude of other manufactured goods. An Oct. 31 event at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) highlighted the city’s present-day role in manufacturing 21st century products: tools for precision medicine.
CHOP partnered with the CEO Council for Growth of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia to host the grand opening of the hospital’s new Clinical Manufacturing Facility, which will produce clinical-grade biotechnology tools, known as vectors, to deliver cell and gene therapy for difficult-to-treat diseases. The event opening is part of a broader regional effort to showcase Philadelphia’s position as a hub of scientific and medical innovation, attract world-class talent, generate jobs and drive the regional economy.
“Philadelphia is a city of breakthroughs,” said Madeline Bell, President and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, during the event. She added, “In this facility, we make the tools — the vectors — that scientists use to deliver cell and gene therapies, bringing dramatic precision medicine treatments to patients.”
An earlier version of the hospital’s manufacturing facility developed vectors crucial to last year’s medical milestones — the first-ever gene therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Collaborating with Penn Medicine scientists, CHOP experts produced the first vectors for CAR T-cell therapy, used against leukemias, and Luxturna™, used to treat a form of inherited blindness.
“The Greater Philadelphia region is already a global leader in the field of precision medicine,” said Rob Wonderling, President of the CEO Council for Growth and President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. He noted, “With the opening of this facility we demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the future of this very exciting field of medicine. This investment, in particular, will enhance the capacity to bring more cell and gene therapies to patients, a goal we’re extremely pleased to support.”
To share a parent’s perspective on what these innovations could mean for children and families, Devaki Jean spoke briefly. She is the mother of a child with sickle cell anemia, one of the diseases being targeted with new therapies under development at Children’s Hospital.
The program also featured a panel of research leaders deeply involved in the Clinical Manufacturing Facility. Moderating the discussion was Bryan Wolf, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at CHOP. Joining him on the panel were Beverly Davidson, PhD, CHOP’s Chief Scientific Strategy Officer and Director of the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics, which manages the facility, and Stefano Rivella, PhD, a CHOP hematology researcher with expertise in sickle cell disease.
Two research leaders from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania also joined the panel: Carl June, MD, Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, who led the team that, along with CHOP and Novartis, pioneered CAR T-cell immunotherapy; and Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, an expert in retinal disorders who was one of the team leaders who pioneered Luxturna™, the gene therapy for blindness now manufactured by Spark Therapeutics.
About Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation’s first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals, and pioneering major research initiatives, Children’s Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 546-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents.
About The CEO Council for Growth
The CEO Council for Growth, a council of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, leads our region forward by envisioning a stronger, more competitive community, convening decision makers, taking action, and advocating for policies and practices that strengthen our regional economy. This team of more than 60 devoted business, higher education, and civic leaders reaches across our 11-county Greater Philadelphia community. They are engaged advocates who are committed to innovation in business, improving regional mobility, and fostering talent as key opportunities that define our competitive advantage and drive economic growth.