The SAMPLE programme (Standard Approach to atMP tissue colLEction), a vital programme to help build capacity for the NHS to expand the use of a new generation of cell and gene therapies for cancer and non-cancer illnesses has been given the green light by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.


An award made by Innovate UK, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is supporting the SAMPLE programme, a project to standardise the way cell and gene samples are collected to then be modified to become Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs).


The project will be led by a team of researchers from The Christie, part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre. This team will be working with a nationwide consortium of NHS Trusts (Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne), NHS Blood and Transplant and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and industrial partners Asymptote, TrakCel, Immetacyte and Autolus. The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, a centre of excellence in innovation, with the core purpose of building a world-leading cell and gene therapy sector in the UK, will support the project in its role of coordinator of the Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre Network.


The number of patients to be treated with ATMPs is predicted to rise to 10,000 per annum over the next decade, from approximately 200 patients in 2018, which will require a doubling or tripling in sample processing capacity to support this level of activity. The SAMPLE programme will focus on developing a standardised approach to the collection of tissue and cell based starting materials essential to the manufacture of ATMPs by building on existing resources and capabilities.


The consortium will be investigating standardising cell and tissue procurement, processing and storage processes within the NHS.


Unlike conventional medicines, cell and gene therapies offer revolutionary treatments which repair, replace, regenerate and re-engineer genes, cells and tissues to restore normal function, sometimes offering potential cures where acute unmet medical need exists. Such treatments often manipulate the patient’s own cells to fight these diseases. However, new systems are needed to deliver these transformative therapies into the NHS.


This project is proactively addressing the organisational changes needed to address this increasing requirement for treatment with ATMPs. ATMPs have significant health economic and organisational implications which need to be proactively addressed to enable more life changing treatments to be provided to children and adults with cancer and non-cancer diseases.


Fiona Thistlethwaite, Medical Oncology consultant at The Christie and a SAMPLE project lead said “SAMPLE represents a fantastic opportunity to link UK partners from across the NHS and industry to establish standard practices in the complex but very exciting field of Advanced Therapies.”


Marc Turner, Medical Director at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service said: “Advanced Therapies have the potential to change the way we treat many common serious diseases including degenerative conditions and cancers.  SNBTS is delighted to be working with our commercial, academic and healthcare partners across the UK working to help realise this next generation of personal medicines.”


Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair, Innovate UK for UKRI, said: “The project announced today will bring real benefits to patients and boost the knowledge economy as part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy. This is vital for the UK as a global leader in the development of advanced therapies and medicine manufacturing.” Innovate UK has funded not only the SAMPLE study but the development of the Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres themselves.


This programme links together a national network of IUK funded Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres including iMATCH (Innovate Manchester Advanced Therapy Centre Hub), the Northern Alliance Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre (encompassing Newcastle, Leeds and Scotland) and the Midlands and Wales Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre (comprising Birmingham, Nottingham and Wales). Innovate UK has already committed to supporting Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres until 2021, to specialise in the delivery of cell and gene therapy products, for further information see