Sherif El-Refai is a doctoral student in clinical and experimental pharmaceutical science at the University of Kentucky. Sherif El-Refai works in the University’s Black Lab, where he contributes to research in genetic therapies for cancer.
In 2016, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced the development of a small device that could genetically modify a patient’s blood cells. Designed for use in places that have limited access to genetic cancer treatments, it fits on a table yet does the work of a high-budget clean room ordinarily available only in research hospitals.
The product is a redeveloped version of the closed-system CliniMACS Prodigy and follows current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs). Testing revealed that the quality of the modified blood cells was similar to or better than those created in regulated clean-room laboratories. Furthermore, testing in animal models demonstrated successful repopulation in two individual trials.
These positive results indicate the potential usefulness of the product in treating patients in remote areas. Researchers estimate the total per-patient cost of the system to be significantly less than that of the traditional model, thus making the system particularly promising for use in under-resourced communities.