Paving the Regenerative Medicine Pathway

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 11/17/2017
FDA unveiled a regenerative medicine framework aimed at speeding the development and review of cell and stem cell therapies and tissue-based products, while also cracking down on those that would game the system. The framework, which was outlined in two draft and two final guidances, builds on the agency's previous policy that took effect in 2005.

"Today we’re taking steps to advance an innovative framework for how we intend to apply the existing laws and regulations that govern these products," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "Our aim is to make sure we’re being nimble and creative when it comes to fostering innovation, while taking steps to protect the safety of patients."

The two final guidances aim to provide clarity on which products are exempt from FDA regulations, and how FDA defines "minimal manipulation" and "homologous use."

The first draft guidance clarifies regulatory pathways for devices used in the recovery, isolation, or delivery of Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapies (RMAT). In the second draft guidance, FDA explains how it might consider regenerative medicine products for expedited review pathways, including Fast Track, breakthrough therapy and RMAT designations, as well as accelerated approval and Priority Review.

The RMAT designation, which was introduced in December as part of the 21st Century Care Act, applies the principles pioneered in FDA’s breakthrough designation to regenerative therapies including “cell therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering products, human cell and tissue products, and combination products using any such therapies or products.” In August, Gottlieb announced that FDA will also make some gene therapies eligible for RMAT.

The second draft guidance also proposes the use of "innovative" trial designs, such as basket trials that compare multiple investigational products. Another example is a multi-center trial where individual academic centers use the same manufacturing protocols and share combined trial data to support BLAs from each individual center.

"Our goal is to achieve a risk-based and science-based approach to support innovative product development, while clarifying the FDA’s authorities and enforcement priorities and making sure we are protecting patients," Gottlieb said in his statement.

The second draft guidance also encourages companies to engage with Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) review staff during product development. Several companies have voiced concern over the frequency of interaction with FDA, particularly regarding preclinical development of regenerative medicine therapies. In a media briefing Thursday, Peter Marks, director of CBER, said that the guidances aim to address this by providing clarity on “the agency’s interpretation of the regulations.”

FDA did not issue any new warning letters or enforcement actions with the guidances, but said it intends to focus enforcement actions for unlawfully marketed regenerative medicine products on those that pose a higher risk, considering factors such as whether it is for allogeneic use and the route and site of administration. Gottlieb said that providing a clear regulatory framework for developers "gives us the solid platform we need to continue to take enforcement action against a small number of clearly unscrupulous actors."

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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