The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in partnership with the UW Carbone Cancer Center, has chosen its first director of cell manufacturing at the Program for Advanced Cell Therapy (PACT).
Nirupama Pike, PhD, will take the reins at the recently completed $1 million addition to the Clinical Hematopoietic Cell Processing Laboratory at University Hospital.
“We are excited to have Dr. Pike as part of the PACT team that will develop innovative cell-based therapies in order to help patients, and this is a first-of-its-kind endeavor in Madison, Wisconsin,” said Dr. Jacques Galipeau, PACT director and assistant dean of therapeutics discovery and development in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
Pike’s role will be to oversee lab operations and advanced cell manufacturing as the program works to develop manufactured hematopoietic cells, mesenchymal stem cells and other cell types for clinical trials.
The main goal of the work will be to bring UW-born cell technology innovations to the clinic, but Pike will also develop partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, UW-Madison researchers and clinicians to make accessible to Wisconsinites new treatments based on immunotherapy and other cell-based therapies for cancer, autoimmune disorders and tissue injury.
“I strongly believe that this approach of using personalized cell therapy with first-in-human type of studies within an academic medical center will pave the way for UW to lead in the cutting edge cell therapy space,” Pike said.
This program – conceived and executed under Galipeau’s direction – is also important because nothing like this currently exists, and a program such as this fits very well in rich tradition of excellence in innovation and technologies that UW-Madison holds, she said.
The new lab is completed, but not yet in operation. It is expected to begin production in 2018.
Background includes strong academic, industry experience
Pike earned a PhD from Harvard University and has authored numerous publications, book chapters and patents, and has extensive experience in cell manufacturing, translational research and business development.
Early in her career, at Ligand Pharmaceuticals, she was part of the team that designed novel hematopoietic screening assays for erythropoietin and thrombopoietin in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, a part of the program for development of Promacta.
Her new role isn’t Pike’s first at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
From 2005 to 2012, she was part of the leadership team at WiCell and Morgridge Research Institutes as the director of education and outreach. Under the mentorship of Dr. Jamie Thomson, she designed and executed the Stem Cell Training Course that trained more than 800 scientists from 32 states and 21 countries. She also served on the Chancellor’s Speakers Bureau and worked with the University of Wisconsin Foundation team to engage the alumni in the advancements for stem cell research.
“I look forward to building bridges from bench discovery to deployment for cell technologies at UW and working with lab scientists and clinicians in making this a reality,” Pike said.