Breakthroughs in the development of advanced therapies could revolutionise treatment for thousands of people suffering from immune mediated inflammatory liver disease.

There are three main immune mediated inflammatory liver diseases; primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and autoimmune hepatitis (AIH).

These conditions develop when a patient’s immune system starts to attack its own liver cells, causing inflammation and scarring.

They affect up to 40 per 100,000 people, across a wide range of ethnic groups. Currently there is no cure for these diseases, with many patients’ diseases progressing to the point of transplant.

Combined, PBC, PSC and AIH account for more than 10% of all liver transplant activity, but a shortage of suitable organ donors means that many of these patients either wait a long time for a transplant or never receive one.

Advanced therapies

Advanced therapies are a new class of treatments based on genes, cells or tissues, which offer groundbreaking possibilities.

These advanced therapies are very different from existing treatments. They are living therapies, so the requirements for their manufacture, distribution and storage are very complex.

The UK is a world leader in this field, with the second largest number of cell therapy companies on the planet, and over 100 ongoing advanced therapy clinical trials.

A collaborative and multidisciplinary approach

Involved in a number of trials focusing on advanced therapies is the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), a specialist centre for immune diseases based across University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham.

In recognition of Birmingham’s track record in cell and gene therapies, the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, established one of three national centres, the £9 million Midlands and Wales Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre (MW-ATTC), in the city.

I am excited about testing these new therapies and rolling out advanced therapies to patients in the Midlands and Wales.

The centre has established a large network of commercial, academic and NHS partners to help deliver advanced therapies to patients across the Midlands and Wales.

Professor Philip Newsome, Director of the MW-ATTC and NIHR Deputy Director of the Birmingham BRC, says, “Advanced therapies such as mesenchymal stromal cells offer up the promise of new ways of treating patients with immune-mediated conditions such as PSC. I am excited about testing these new therapies and rolling out advanced therapies to patients in the Midlands and Wales.”

Mark Chatterley, the first PSC patient in the West Midlands to receive a new treatment of mesenchymal stromal cells treatment as part of the MERLIN study, adds, “The fact that people are doing research and trying to make my life better, that’s more than I can put into words.”

The future of chronic care and cancer management

Advanced therapies have huge potential to revolutionise the management of many chronic diseases and cancer.

Birmingham has invested heavily to help develop and deliver these advanced therapies and has a proven track record of working with small and medium enterprises, as well as larger companies, to help them develop the products and take them to market.