Advances in automation for the production of clinical-grade mesenchymal stromal cells: The AUTOSTEM robotic platform
Stem cell-based therapies are a central element of regenerative medicine and provide new treatment modalities for chronic and life-threatening conditions. Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) represent an important technology in regenerative medicine, although less developed with respect to clinical translation than hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). MSC therapies may be based on the potential of the cells to differentiate to mesenchymal lineages or on their paracrine effects on host tissue. Both autologous and allogeneic applications are possible, the latter enabled by the low immunogenicity of the cells. Although stem cell therapy holds much promise for the treatment of chronic and debilitating diseases, there are still many obstacles to be overcome. In addition to the compelling need to generate strong and unambiguous clinical evidence, there are major technical gaps that must be filled. Chief among these is the development of manufacturing platforms for cell products that are efficient, cost effective and reproducible. Automated, robotic and closed production systems will provide the most efficient manufacturing strategy. Here we describe advances in automation for the clinical-scale production of MSCs and challenges associated with translating from lab-scale to automated large-scale manufacturing processes.