NovaCell—Villanova’s Center for Cellular Engineering

 

In August 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a historic action making the first gene therapy available in the United States, ushering in a new approach to the treatment of cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases.

The life-changing potential of gene therapy products is undeniable, but the cost, which could be 20 or 30 times the annual wages of the typical American, according to the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will dramatically limit their reach.

Villanova University is making its own contributions to gene and cell therapy through NovaCell, the Center for Cellular Engineering. 

 

CURRENT RESEARCH

Sponsor: National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant
Start Date: 2020
Investigators: Dr. Gang Feng (PI); Dr. Jens Karlsson (supporting)
Description: The confocal Raman microscope with sophisticated environmental control will enable in vivo chemical mapping under a wide temperature range and different gas/liquid environments, providing high resolution and real-time structural and chemical fingerprints of materials and chemicals. More.
 

Sponsor: National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant
Start Date: 2020
Investigators: Dr. Anthony Lagalante (PI); Dr. Jacob Elmer (Co-PI); Dr. Aimee Eggler (Co-PI)
Description: Mass spectrometry is one of the key analytical methods used to identify and characterize small quantities of chemical species in complex samples. For NovaCell researchers, the instrumentation may be used for understanding the process of protein degradation and identifying molecular determinants of the proteasome's ability to unfold proteins, and for elucidating host cell response to gene therapy and improving transgene expression by inhibiting or circumventing host cell defenses. More

Sponsor: Villanova CGT Consortium Project
Investigators: Eggler A., Bamezai, A. and Kelly, W.

Sponsor: GlaxoSmithKline
Start Date: 2019
Investigator: Dr. Jens Karlsson
Description: Research focusing on assessment and prevention of intracellular ice formation during cryopreservation, incorporating the use of Villanova’s unique high-speed imaging cryomicroscopy facility to detect the ultra-rapid intracellular freezing events. More

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health subaward
Start Date: 2019
Investigators: Redbud Labs, Inc. with Dr. William Kelly
Description: Focus on improving the bioreactors used to provide controlled delivery of nutrients and biomimetic stimuli in order to influence T-cell growth. More

Sponsor: National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals
Start Date: 2019
Investigators: Dr. William Kelly (PI) with Dr. Zuyi “Jacky” Huang (co-PI) and Redbud Labs, Inc.
Description:
 Cell growth rate is a limiting factor in CAR-T therapy research. This grant will support the optimum configuration of Redbud’s bioreactor technology, testing T cells under a variety of conditions and different mediums, and developing a mathematical model that can predict cell growth rate based on conditions. More

Sponsor: National Science Foundation, CAREER grant
State Date
: 2017
Investigator
: Dr. Jacob Elmer
Description
: The goal of this project is to improve gene therapy by identifying and modifying the genes involved in the immune response to extraneous DNA in several cancer cell lines. Such an approach is expected to enhance gene delivery by inhibiting the target genes with both small molecule inhibitors and inhibitor proteins. More

NovaCell—Villanova’s Center for Cellular Engineering Logo

NovaCell Director
Dr. William Kelly, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

NOVACELL NEWS

DNA and RNA rising molecules in vaccine and API production

DNA and RNA rising molecules in vaccine and API production

On April 29, 2021 from 12:30 - 2:00 p.m. ET, NovaCell Director Dr. Bill Kelly will co-chair a virtual seminar on “DNA and RNA rising molecules in vaccine and API production,” organized by the ACS-BIOT/ESBES COVID19 working group. Dr. Piergiuseppe Nestola, manager of Process Technology Consultants at Sartorius, will present “mRNA Manufacturing: Removing Bottlenecks in PD and Manufacturing Process.” Dr. Jurgen Mairhofer, CEO and Co-founder of enGenes Biotech, will present “Plasmid DNA production is not everything - but everything is nothing without high-quality plasmid DNA.”

Detailed information and free registration is available here.

Graduate Cell and Gene Therapy Course Attracts Professionals from Pharmaceutical Industry

Graduate Cell and Gene Therapy Course Attracts Professionals from Pharmaceutical Industry

Dr. Jacob Elmer in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has taught a new graduate version of his in-demand Cellular Engineering course. ChE 8591: Cell and Gene Therapy, has proven to be popular among those working in the pharmaceutical field.
 

NovaCell Director Dr. Bill Kelly delivered an invited virtual talk to Howard University’s College of Engineering

Better Bioprocessing for Cellular Therapy Products

NovaCell Director Dr. Bill Kelly delivered an invited virtual talk to Howard University’s College of Engineering titled "Better Bioprocessing for Cellular Therapy Products.” He shared his recent research focused on increasing human T-cell ex-vivo growth rates for improved CAR-T processes. CAR T-cell therapy is a promising new way to get immune cells called T cells (a type of white blood cell) to fight cancer by genetically modifying them in the lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells. A growing and promising area of cancer research, CAR-T therapy t is limited by high cost and the difficulty of consistently culturing T-cells to therapeutically relevant concentrations ex-vivo. Dr. Kelly’s team has developed a microbioreactor for studying the effects of mixing on human T-cell expansion and an approach that can potentially be used by clinicians to personalize T-cell growth conditions for CAR-T patients.