Next week, we officially launch the Gates Institute, bringing the next generation of personalized regenerative, cell and gene therapies to more people more quickly than ever before.
Seventeen years ago, we took the first steps in this journey with the establishment of a regenerative medicine program named for Colorado entrepreneur Charles C. Gates.
We have since built a rich biomedical ecosystem that enables us to develop life-saving treatments for a host of diseases at unmatched speed and scope.
We have had the Gates family at our side all along the way.
Charlie Gates was a remarkable human being. As president and CEO of Gates Rubber Company, he thought big, dreamed bigger and dared to do things differently. He valued collaboration and creativity, and his spirit is evident in the progress we have achieved.
Last spring, we made a $200 million commitment in partnership with the Gates Frontiers Fund to turn the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine into the Gates Institute. We named Terry Fry, MD, inaugural executive director and Charles C. Gates Endowed Chair. And, with that investment, we are headed to new frontiers.
At the Gates Institute today, we are moving bold ideas through the basic, clinical and translational research continuum in record time. New, highly targeted cell and gene therapies (CGTs) for cancers and other rare diseases are being developed, manufactured and tested right here right now, and countless more are on the horizon.
“This is an incredible opportunity to help patients facing serious health issues and will change the face of medicine as we know it,” said Fry. “We will look back at the creation of the Gates Institute in the not-too-distant
future and be able to point to therapies and cures made possible through this monumental commitment.”
What is so valuable about the Gates Institute is that it connects and centralizes our resources into a seamless translational pathway.
In addition to scientific expertise, the team has the business acumen and regulatory know-how to take promising ideas across the “valley of death” that too-often stifles medical breakthroughs en route to commercialization.
With state-of-the-art biomanufacturing facilities here on our campus, they are turning those ideas into clinical-grade therapeutics. And with our robust clinical programs and the close partnership of our hospital affiliates, we are able to take those therapies directly to those who need them.
Combined, these assets make it possible to radically reduce the time needed to translate a novel therapeutic from the lab to the clinic.
Take our current CD19x22 clinical trial as one example. The novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy trial began recruiting patients with aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma one year ago, after being produced right here on our campus.
With this novel therapy, principal investigator Manali Kamdar, MD, is hoping to increase patient remission rates to levels higher than the 40% achieved with previous CAR T-cell therapies by targeting specific antigens on the lymphoma cell surface.
“The Gates Institute has been invaluable in helping to move trials like this from bench to bedside,” said Kamdar. “We can move therapies through production in a matter of days, rather than several weeks ‒ that would not be possible without the infrastructure that exists at CU Anschutz.”
Near the end of his life, Charlie Gates became intrigued by the prospect of stem cell research for revolutionizing medicine. Even as age-related macular degeneration robbed him of his eyesight, he saw abundant possibilities for improving human health in what was then uncharted territory.
With a charge from their father to seed further exploration, siblings Diane Gates Wallach and John Gates envisioned the Gates Center on our burgeoning campus, making initial philanthropic commitments from the Gates Frontiers Fund in 2006 to get the early program off the ground.
Over the years since, the Gates family has continued to invest in our growth, using “venture philanthropy” to foster rapid advancements and inspiring other generous donors interested in regenerative medicine’s potential.
By establishing named endowed chairs, they have also invested in our faculty. Though Gates Frontiers Fund Co-Trustee John Gates passed away earlier this year, his memory lives on through the John S. Gates Endowed Chair, held by Gates Center founding director Dennis Roop, PhD.
“Our father believed that to move the needle, it’s important to invest in places that aren’t constrained by convention,” said Diane Gates Wallach. “We share CU Anschutz’s vision to simultaneously fuel medical innovation while reducing the time required to get those innovations where they are needed most – to the patient.”
The creation of a dedicated regenerative medicine program with Roop at the helm boosted our ability to attract other top talent and further build out a biosciences ecosystem. This, in turn, expanded the center’s network of members, now numbering over 130 from higher education, medicine and private industry.
Alongside this growth came investments to accelerate the translation of discoveries into novel therapeutics and cures. The Gates Grubstake Fund is one vehicle for those investments, awarding over $1.5 million last year alone and nearly $10 million since its inception.
The missing link was an in-house biomanufacturing facility. When space opened up in what is now the Fitzsimons Innovation Community in 2013, the campus seized the opportunity.
The Charles C. Gates Biomanufacturing Facility was established two years later. It is the only such facility in the Rocky Mountain region, and provided us the game-changing ability to manufacture therapies for first-in-human clinical trials without going any farther than across Montview Boulevard.
“We always knew that having biomanufacturing capabilities would be essential to building a world-class institute for cell and gene therapy,” said Roop. "Our dream was to build a facility that would allow the translation of basic research into therapies that would benefit patients. We are now seeing this come to fruition.”
By connecting these strengths, the Gates Institute is taking us to new heights at a pivotal moment in medicine as CGTs gain ground.
Fry, a pioneer in CAR T-cell therapies, sees CGTs changing the practice of medicine.
“This is really about leveraging the scientific excellence in the region to develop medicines that will benefit patients,” he said. “The enthusiasm for CGTs has been enabled by the success of CAR T-cell therapy, which has changed the landscape of therapeutic options for pediatric and adult cancers.
“When I look ahead, I envision that when people think about institutions at the forefront of transformative patient therapies in this CGT space, CU Anschutz is considered among the leading institutions in the world.”
As we celebrate the launch of the Gates Institute, we celebrate the tremendous promise of novel therapies for patients everywhere. And we carry forward Charlie Gates’s legacy of boldly exploring new frontiers.
Hear more from Terry Fry and the Gates Institute team on Thursday, May 11, at a webinar titled “From Concepts to Cures.”
Learn how you can engage with the Gates Institute, and where this work is headed next.