Article Date

Our Technology Team includes key experts in their field. Arantxa Lera is the UK Head of Architecture based in Birmingham. Here she talks about her career, current projects and CAR-T facility design.

Arantxa Lera has 20+ years’ experience and has led many pharmaceutical and regenerative medicine projects. More recently her expertise has developed in CAR-T facility design.

​Arantxa holds a Masters in Architecture from the University of the Basque Country. Her personal interest in the adaptability of buildings, led to a post-professional MSc in Urban Design from University College Dublin.

What do you do?

I lead the architectural design of major pharmaceutical and Cell and Gene Therapy (C+GT) projects for clients such as Janssen, Merck, MSD and Sanofi. My focus is to create the best design solution for varied and usually complex environments. Recent projects include a campus consolidation masterplan for a new biopharma centre of excellence and a major bio-processing centre.

What inspired you to become an architect?

I have always wanted to become an architect, as long as I remember. So I guess stubbornness!

On a more serious point, I really enjoy creating and designing; is there any better career than designing the buildings we use every day?

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a new and exciting Cell Therapy project. The facility will produce treatments for 3,000 patients per year expandable to 10,000 patients per year. It will therefore need to be expandable and adaptable to new technologies as they become available during the life-time of the building. I am looking forward to working through and solving the new challenges and developing new solutions!

Why is Cell and Gene Therapy (C+GT) so important

C+GT facilities could pave the way for personalised treatments that are significantly more effective than current treatments. It is a developing field with enormous potential. Because of this, designers and architects have huge opportunities to contribute towards the creation of new design approaches, from first principles. Design is fundamental to help solve the challenges they face in making personalised medicines more widely accessible.

How do you see C+GT developing in the future?

One of the major challenges in the design of Cell Therapy facilities is the huge amount of logistics movements required to support the operation. In order to address this issue, I believe there is a great opportunity for the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies such as the use of robots/cobots and digitisation technologies. This is important from an architectural perspective as it has a significant impact on the design of the facility.

Additionally, these facilities need to be flexible to facilitate the introduction of new technologies as they are developed. Flexibility and adaptability is something that has interested me during my career and it became a subject of my MSc thesis.

What’s your favourite piece of technology?

My coffee maker - coffee keeps me going!