The International Society of Cell & Gene Therapy (ISCT) has a rich history of bringing together leading professionals who are committed to advancing the field. This year, from May 2nd to May 5th, nearly 1500 of those leading professionals from across the globe gathered in the bustling Canadian city of Montreal to share the latest breakthroughs and innovations, partake in thought-provoking conversations, and create lasting connections at the ISCT 2018 annual conference. Although I did not get a chance to indulge in the famed Canadian poutine dish, I left the country full of something better: new ideas, deeper knowledge, and a greater appreciation for the potential implications and benefits of cell and gene therapy innovation.
The exhibit hall was no small place, spanning far and wide with organizations making an impact in the cell and gene therapy space. Ranging everywhere from medical devices to cell culture media, testing laboratories to cell manufacturing facilities, it was exciting to see how all the different players come together to enable the translation of cutting edge cellular therapies. On top of the exhibition booths, roughly 400 scientific posters were showcased that delegates could browse and learn about the extensive research taking place in the industry.
Emphasis on Blood-Free Media
One such topic of research was blood-free media, a new class of media that is completely devoid of any undefined human or animal-derived components with quality and performance optimized for the expansion of therapeutic cells. InVitria demonstrated that blood-free media could be formulated by replacing human serum-derived proteins with recombinant albumin and transferrin. The resulting media exhibited functional performance in the expansion of mesenchymal stem cells from multiple tissues at an equivalent degree to that of human serum-derived components. To learn more, download the full poster here.
But what was perhaps the most valuable part of the ISCT conference was the plethora of talks given by top researchers and scientists. These presentations covered hot topics in the field such as regulatory T cell treatment for autoimmunity, mesenchymal stromal cell therapy, oncolytic viruses, the use of exosomes and gene-modified immune cells, and natural killer cells’ exciting therapeutic applications.
In one session on the immunologic sculpting of stem cell and T cell grafts, Stanford University presented on new advancements in pediatric transplants that utilize stem cells from a family member, known as haploidentical, to make it possible to use donors that are not perfect matches. Staying with the stem cell theme, Nohla Therapeutics, a leader in developing universal donor therapies off of expanded cord blood, spoke about ways to improve probability of success in the clinic. Further, in a session on overcoming limitations of cell and gene therapies, Fate Therapeutics highlighted their novel approach of ex vivo transformation with small molecules and biologics to result in programmed cellular immunotherapies.
CAR-T therapies, still in the spotlight of cancer immunotherapy, were not forgotten amidst the new hot topics highlighted. There was a large focus on operations and commercialization strategies when Cellectis presented about the necessary considerations for GMP manufacturing of advanced therapeutic cell products. Juno Therapeutics, another organization leading the way for CAR-T therapies, discussed cell therapy manufacturing and the utilization of supervisory control automation. These talks made it apparent that the cell and gene therapy space is prone for some huge successes in the near future.
It is amazing what can come of bringing together hundreds of thought leaders and innovators seeking to further advance and improve not only themselves, but cell and gene therapy as a whole. ISCT 2018 provided a place where the top scientists, doctors, manufacturers, and regulatory managers around the world could collaborate to full potential. Novel innovations, state-of-the-art technology platforms, and exciting potential of these therapies were shared.
Au revoir until next year. We’ll see you down under in Melbourne for all that ISCT 2019 will bring!