Catalyzing the Development of Life-Saving Cancer Treatments

Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies, Philadelphia, PA

The Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies (CACT) combines Penn Medicine’s intellectual resources with Novartis’ leadership in the pharmaceutical industry to jointly find more effective treatments for cancer. The design concepts implemented in the center have doubled process efficiency, maximized daylighting, and increased communication and collaboration between researchers. The CACT is poised to become a true facility of the future – an epicenter for the research and early clinical development of personalized cellular therapies for many forms of cancer.

Located on Penn Medicine’s campus in Philadelphia amidst both clinical and laboratory facilities, the CACT expands on Penn’s 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” for and potentially destroy tumors.

While the CACT is primarily a lab and research space, our design team included a number of individuals outside of our Science & Technology practice — including experts in our corporate workplace design and strategy team — to create the best workplace environment possible for the 100 highly-specialized employees. The strategic layout and organization of the laboratory environments will ultimately reduce the time it takes to create the “hunter cells” for one patient by 50%. At the outset of this effort, it took an entire month to tackle this for each patient; now, it only takes two weeks.

Full height windows surround the laboratory and allow striking views of the surrounding city and, in effect, establish a very different environment from traditional manufacturing and interior laboratory design focused on compartmentalization. Additionally, the labs are open-plan, which allow researchers from different teams to work together and not in silos. Designed with a centralized café space along with several other collaborative spaces, the CACT supports meaningful engagement and a dynamic work environment that fosters discovery.