Professor Sakis Mantalaris, a leading figure in cell therapy research, has been awarded €4.88m as part of the prestigious Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship Programme.

A joint appointment with Trinity College Dublin and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), the award will facilitate Prof Mantalaris and a team of researchers in spearheading a pioneering research programme to improve the biomanufacturing of cellular therapeutics that could potentially lead to improved clinical outcomes.

Cell therapy is the transfer of living cells from one source or person to another, or into the same person after manipulation for a desired function.

The use of cultured cells to treat patients, especially with advanced cancers, immune or degenerative conditions, is increasing as the benefits are being realised. However, variability in cell quality, type and the process used to create them makes the product unpredictable. Prof Mantalaris and his team are working to mitigate this. 

Direct cellular heterogeneity

In his proposal, a platform will be created to characterise and direct cellular heterogeneity through the understanding and control of metabolism throughout biomanufacturing in order to potentially deliver improved clinical outcomes.

Prof Mantalaris' research is interdisciplinary in nature, in collaboration with Professor Nicki Panoskaltsis, spanning fundamental science to biomanufacturing engineering science towards future clinical translation.

His collaborations – with Trinity Translational Medicine Institute (TTMI), NIBRT, and St James’s Hospital – will benefit Ireland’s growing cell and gene therapy ecosystem. Prof Mantalaris also aims to bring a new Masters training programme in Advanced Precision Therapeutics and Biomanufacturing, in collaboration with NIBRT, St James’s, and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service to Trinity’s Graduate Studies Committee.

Prof Mantalaris said: “I am delighted to have been awarded an SFI Research Professorship in the area of Cellular Therapeutics. Ireland is a global leader in the ‘knowledge-based’ biomanufacturing sector, which is being shaped by the emergence of novel complex personalised medicines, such as cellular therapeutics.

"This award will provide a unique opportunity to integrate the academic excellence at Trinity College Dublin with the biomanufacturing excellence at the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) towards future clinical translation of cellular therapies at the St James’s academic campus.”

Dr Darrin Morrissey, NIBRT CEO, said: “This significant research funding in an area of national strategic importance is testament to the forward thinking collaborative approach taken in recent years by NIBRT, Trinity College, and TTMI at St James’ Hospital to attract one of the world’s leading researchers in cell biology and precision bioprocessing to Ireland.

"The SFI Research Professorship funding, supporting Professor Mantalaris to establish his team across the three institutions, is pivotal in developing Ireland as a leading global location for the development of these remarkable new cell-based medicines. We at NIBRT are thrilled and honoured to be co-hosting Professor Mantalaris and his high-impact research program at our state-of-the-art research facility.”

First holder

Professor John Gilmer, jead of School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, said: “Professor Mantalaris is the first holder of the Trinity College Panoz Chair in Pharmaceutical Biology, a position intended to provide leadership in advanced therapeutics research and translation. Professor Mantalaris is an outstanding researcher in biomanufacturing with extensive experience at world class institutions. The SFI Research Professorship programme and opportunity to work with NIBRT were important factors in attracting Professor Mantalaris to Ireland.”

Professor Philip Nolan, director general, Science Foundation Ireland, welcomed the appointment, saying: “SFI is delighted to support Professor Mantalaris, whose funding will support an additional nine research positions.

"The SFI Research Professorship is designed to attract world-class researchers, building Ireland’s critical expertise and international reputation for excellence. His research will bolster cell therapy research here, further strengthening our global biopharma sector, while simultaneously bridging the gap between fundamental science and translational medicine.”