March 1, 2019

How Strategic Lab Design Accelerates Our Fight Against Cancer

Scientific American has published a new piece co-written by CannonDesign’s senior laboratory planner Steven Copenhagen, Penn Medicine’s professor of gene therapy Bruce Levine, PhD, and the Center for Cellular Therapies’ director of facility operations Kurt Buchholz that details how strategic laboratory design accelerates our fight against cancer.

The article focuses on six strategies scientific workplace environments can embrace to elevate cancer research, treatment and outcomes. Specifically, the article focuses on the cGMP Novartis Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies, a successful epicenter for groundbreaking research using Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) technology, which enables a patient’s own immune cells to be reprogrammed outside of their body and re-infused to hunt and hopefully destroy tumors. The strategic layout and organization of the lab environments have helped Novartis-Penn Medicine reduce the time it takes to create “hunter cells” for one patient by 50%. The research hub is also where former Vice President Joe Biden launched Cancer Moonshot 2020. Our team is proud to have designed the space for Novartis and Penn Medicine.

Below is a key excerpt:

Providing a Window into the Research Within

All too often, due to the ultra-clean environments needed for immunotherapy development, these spaces and researchers working within them are closed off from view. This presents two challenges. The first is that operations and facilities teams then can’t see issues that arise within the cleanroom. The other challenge is that this incredible research is walled-off from public and patient view and huge opportunities for education and promotion are missed. By simply working with designers to find safe and reasonable ways to put this science on display, researchers can enhance public perception; strengthen alliances with academic, professional and industrial organizations; and better facilitate dialogue with lawmakers and patient advocates.

Dr. Bruce Levine meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in front of the cleanroom viewing window. Courtesy: Penn Medicine.

For the CACT, the solution was a 3’ x 3’ window that was placed in the non-sterile change room so that everyone from school groups, to National Geographic, to former Vice President Joe Biden can see into the cleanroom (cGMP) spaces. Without having to completely gown-up, the public gains an understanding of the magnitude of the research happening within. It is not unusual for the facility to welcome multiple tour groups each week, which speaks to how this facility has become a showcase center for bringing immunotherapies to the forefront of enhancing public awareness.

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