Cell therapy and cancer treatment: finding the cures to genetic diseases.
In 2016 VisitScotland Business Events launched an exciting new campaign targeting the MICE market: Legends. This campaign showcases the sector strengths in Scotland from bio-engineering, to digital technology, life sciences, space and engineering. As part of the campaign we ran a competition to discover the Young Legends of tomorrow, to meet those young people in Scotland who are working on incredible new ideas that will strengthen our advanced sectors, and who may just have the next idea that can become a Legend. In this blog we meet Hannah Findlay, a young scientist with a passion for healthcare, medicine and genetics, who is working on incredible cell therapy medicines here in Scotland.
By Hannah Findlay, Process Development Technician at TC Biopharm
From a young age, I have had a keen interest in health care and medicine. In school, I became interested in learning about the human body. I wanted to know how it worked, and what happened when things went wrong. I then became interested in genetics. Particularly, how minor changes in our DNA can result in large consequences to our health. This then led me to carry out my Master’s degree in medical genetics and genomics. My studies only fuelled my interest in genetic diseases, and the new advancements being made in the hope of curing these difficult conditions. I became determined to find a career where I felt like I was making a difference in the field. This led me to TC BioPharm.
TC BioPharm is a company in the West of Scotland that is developing cell therapies for cancer in the hopes of improving patient health and quality of life. Specifically, we specialise in the use of a subset of immune cells, γδ T cells (Gamma Delta T cells). The company has successfully moved products into clinical trial and are now developing novel therapies that have been genetically modified to better target cancer cells. The success of the company has also attracted many talented scientists, including Dr Silvia Mazzotta, who moved from Newcastle to work at TC BioPharm. Her reason for moving to work at TC BioPharm was because she was “interested in cell therapy and committed to improving patient’s quality of life.” She felt the company was doing something unique in the field, and wanted to be a part of it. As a recent graduate, it was an ideal job in my field of interest.
Members of the TC BioPharm Development team on International Woman’s Day
At TC BioPharm, I am part of the Process Development team. My team develop the processes used to manufacture products that will be delivered to patients. We also develop the assays to test the final product. On a day to day basis, I expand cells to optimise the expansion process for, and test different modifications to improve the final product. I was involved in the development of the latest product to reach clinical trials. OmnImmune® involves taking immune cells from healthy donors, expanding them and then injecting them into the patient.
As part of this project, I was tasked to develop an assay to test the safety of this product, as injecting cells from another person has the potential to cause graft versus host disease in the patient. More recently, I have been involved in the development of the manufacturing process for the next product, which will be genetically modified immune cells. It is essential to ensure that we can scale-up the manufacturing process and successfully provide enough modified cells to the patient, but also to ensure the safety of the final product.
Production method for OmnImmune®. Cells are taken from a healthy donor and delivered to a patient (adapted from TC BioPharm, 2019)
Life sciences is the field I have wanted to work in, and I am now fortunate enough to work for an innovative company that is developing cancer therapies that will improve patient health. I think to be successful in this field you have to be driven and passionate about the area in which you work. However, I have also learned that to make a difference, it helps to be surrounded by people who support you. Here at TC BioPharm, I feel much of the success of the company is a result of teams working together for the same goal, which is to develop and manufacture effective and safe products that will improve patient health and quality of life.
With thanks to Hannah Findlay and everyone at TC Biopharm