High Dimension

Cell and gene therapy research has weathered the storm of COVID-19, leaving a bright future ahead of it

Pharmacy hours interviewed Aklilu Tedla, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Cardinal Health, to discuss the future of pharmacies as more cell and gene therapy products become available to patients.

Question: What cell and gene therapies are being developed that may be approved in the near future?

Aklilu Tedla: I think this is one of the times when the FDA has a lot of cell and gene therapies on the docket for approval, and we expect that to accelerate over the next few years. Just to give 2 examples, there is BioMarin’s hemophilia A gene therapy, which is promising; bluebird bio offers a few new therapies, one for beta thalassemia and another for very rare brain disorders. So a number of products that are coming – these are just 2 examples.

Question: What impact could these upcoming approvals have on the industry?

Aklilu Tedla: So let’s start with the patient’s point of view. I mean, you’re going to have patients who have results that they probably couldn’t have expected years ago. So the quality of life, the outcomes for the patients – but just think of the dimension of the caregivers – so a huge impact on their families.

I think once you start stepping back and looking at the disruption in healthcare, I think there’s going to be a lot going on. These products, just going back to tolerance therapies – out of my body, back into my body sounds very simple, but there’s a lot of chain of custody, chain of identity that you have to establish to make sure the Product integrity is maintained throughout. There has to be long-term safety oversight, things that we don’t do today. I think we will have to innovate in cold storage and cryoshipping, for example.

So look at the impact, not just in terms of the patient, but also all service providers in the field need to rethink the value they bring to these types of businesses.

Question: What is your vision for the future of the cell and gene therapy space?

Aklilu Tedla: Bright. I would say this market is about to explode. It’s not without risk – it’s high risk, high reward. The industry has, in some cases, weathered the storm of COVID-19 and the delays, and now we’re starting to see a lot of traction. So I think the future of this industry is great.