ESGCT 2019: editor’s picks

Written by Freya Leask

Here are my tips for what talks and events are not to miss from this year’s European Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ESGCT) Annual Meeting (22-25 October, Barcelona, Spain)

What is the ESGCT?

The European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ESGCT), now in its 27th year, promotes basic and clinical research in gene therapy, cell therapy and genetic vaccines by facilitating education, the exchange of information and technology and by serving as a professional adviser to stakeholder communities and regulatory bodies in Europe.

What should I look out for?

This year’s agenda is starting with a bang, with Masayo Takahashi (RIKEN, Japan) speaking in the opening session (Tuesday, October 22, 4:30pm). I spoke to Masayo about the first iPSC-based trial in humans in 2017, and I’m hoping she’ll be able to update us on advances made since then. Where else can iPSC technology be applied? Here are a few sessions I’m hoping will inspire me:

  • The “New Stem Cell”: macrophages for disease modeling and cell-based therapies (Wednesday, October 23, 8:30am) – Nico Lachmann, Hannover Medical School (Germany), is speaking in an early morning session on iPSCs and organoids.
  • De novo generation of functional human thymus organoids from induced pluripotent stem cells (Wednesday, October 23, 8:30am) – Don’t miss Frank Staal, Leiden University Medical Center (Germany), a previous finalist in the RegMedNet Award for Cultivating Excellence.

This is a fairly gene-therapy heavy agenda, as opposed to meetings such as ISCT’s annual meeting, so I’m looking forward to some clinically-focused updates on the latest clinical trials.

  • Intrathecal AAV9 as a platform approach to treat multiple CNS disorders (Thursday, October 24, 8:30am) – ASGCT 2019 Outstanding New Investigator Award winner Steven Gray, UT Southwestern (TX, USA) will present an update on the ‘treatment revolution’.
  • Recent developments in cardiovascular gene therapy (Thursday, October 24, 2:30pm) -Seppo Ylä Herttuala, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio (Finland), will provide an update.
  • ES-derived cone photoreceptor transplantation for the treatment of retinal degeneration (Friday, October 25, 9am) – Robin Ali, UCL (London, UK) will discuss advances and next steps.

Finally, I’m intrigued to go back to basics. How are European researchers addressing challenges such as immunogenicity, toxicity and large-scale manufacturing?

  • Directed Evolution of Novel AAV Vectors for Clinical Gene Therapy (Wednesday, October 23, 5:30pm) – David Schaffer, University of California, Berkeley (USA) will share insight into AAV vector development.
  • Vector-host interactions and innate immunity in hematopoietic stem cell gene engineering (Thursday, October 24, 2:30pm) – Anna Kajaste-Rudnitski, SR Tiget (Milan, Italy) will discuss the challenges of immunogenicity.
  • Homology-independent targeted integration to counteract toxic gain-of-functions and loss of transgene expression due to cell proliferation (Friday, October 25, 11:30am) – Manel Llado, TIGEM (Naples, Italy) will introduce this new technology.

How can I meet the RegMedNet and Regenerative Medicine team?

I will be attending ESGCT 2019 but I won’t have a booth, so I’m excited to attend as many talks as possible as well as meet as many of you as I can do. If you’re presenting a talk, why not get in touch and participate in a ‘look behind the lecture’? Recently published? I’d love to ‘peek behind the paper’ with you. Email me today to find out more!