Vancouver, Canada, September 14, 2020 - The International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy (ISCT), the global society of clinicians, researchers, regulators, technologists, and industry partners dedicated to the translation of cellular therapy into safe and effective therapies to improve patients’ lives, today announces key findings and recommendations for the cell and gene therapy sector resulting from its 2020 Annual Meeting and subsequent pan-industry discussions.
ISCT’s Annual Meeting is a summit event that sets the aims, policies, solutions, and deliverables for the next 12 months for all stakeholders in the cell and gene therapy sector. As a result of the global pandemic and resultant lockdown, ISCT quickly invested considerable resources to deliver the event in a virtual format. This enabled both the high-level discussions and gathering the feedback it requires throughout the industry in order to represent its interests on an ongoing basis. Using a virtual format, the event was shifted from a 4-day in-person event to a conference effectively open for the entire next 12 months.
In a short preparatory time, ISCT was able to deliver over 35 hours of live and on-demand streamed sessions and 50 hours of access to global lineups of experts. 6 plenary and showcase sessions ran live via streamed video, with scheduled Q&As between speakers and presenters. In addition, the ISCT Partnering Forum, E-Poster Abstract Hall with over 500 abstract submissions, and the Virtual Exhibition Hall enabled video and group discussions.
During the event’s live proceedings, ISCT hosted over 2,024 industry stakeholders, from biopharma and industry, to academics, regulators, patient advocacy groups, and all other organizations involved in the sector. These stakeholders made 29,242 visits to booths and posters at the poster hall. The virtual nature of the event also opened it up to far wider groups of professionals that usually do not attend industry international meetings. Geographically, 47% of the delegates participated from North America, 33% Europe, 11% Asia, 7% Australia & New Zealand and 2% from Central and South America. The live session that attracted most delegates was the ISCT CSO Global Showcase on COVID-19, Part I: “The Force Awakens”. Additional event highlights included the presentation of ISCT’s 2020 career achievement award to Dr. Malcolm Brenner and the ISCT Presidential Transition from Dr. John Rasko to Dr. Bruce Levine.
The results from the most-viewed plenaries during the event are detailed below. The panel discussions can be viewed here.
The opening COVID-19 spotlight session was chaired by Dan Weiss, CSO, ISCT. The panel discussed the wide-ranging approaches currently in use for COVID-19 therapy development. The panel concluded that many COVID-19 scientific and pathological questions remain unanswered and that our understanding of how to treat and prevent the disease will evolve rapidly as the body of knowledge expands. Specifically, the panel highlighted challenges in designing randomized clinical trials due to abnormal incidences of thromboembolic events, and expressed concern regarding toxicology data in studies involving hydroxychloroquine. As a result of the findings to date, studies should proceed with extreme care and caution, noting the opportunity for unproven therapies to flourish as the scientific understanding of COVID-19 evolves.
For the Mesenchymal Stromal Cell (MSC) plenary, Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan, co-chair of the Cell Therapy Stakeholder’s Group (CTSG) answered a range of questions on the manufacturing and potential therapeutic uses of MSCs. Dr. Viswanathan and her team have recently demonstrated potential solutions to allogeneic GMP manufacturing, by using pooled donors of mononuclear cells, significantly reducing dose-to-dose variability and increasing in vitro potency. There were also extensive discussions concerning the advantages of revitalized MSCs in comparison to traditionally cultured MSCs, the practical applications of thawing frozen MSCs, and creating unifying hypotheses.
Bruce Levine, President, ISCT, chaired a plenary on Immune-Mediated Therapeutics. The panel discussed a range of issues, including balancing safety and potential efficacy in advanced patients, especially the ethics around withholding conventional treatments in cell therapy trials, including lymphodepleting chemotherapy.
Tony Ting, Chief Commercialisation Officer, ISCT, chaired a panel discussing the preparations by big pharma for industrial cell and gene therapies. The panel concluded significant additional progress needs to be made regarding regulatory harmonization for cell and gene therapies.
“The ISCT Annual Meeting has become a critical yearly event to provide a platform for the industry to set the next priorities for the delivery of cell and gene therapies to patients. The summit crucially enables patient groups to hold discussions with developers, investors, manufacturers, researchers and regulators. This means challenges can be identified and every group contributes to solutions created,” said Bruce Levine, President, ISCT. “The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic placed incredible demands on a very short timescale to deliver a meaningful format in which to hold the summit. However, COVID-19 also delivered an essential reason to proceed with the event: providing a platform to coordinate cell and gene therapies to fight the pandemic. By delivering a summit in a virtual format, this has enabled a whole set of new participants from around the world to attend and contribute to these discussions.”
About the International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy
Established in 1992, the International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy (ISCT) is a global society of clinicians, regulators, researchers, technologists and industry partners with a shared vision to translate cellular and gene therapy into safe and effective therapies to improve patients’ lives worldwide.
ISCT is the global leader focused on pre-clinical and translational aspects of developing cell and gene-based therapeutics, thereby advancing scientific research into innovative treatments for patients. ISCT offers a unique collaborative environment that addresses three key areas of translation: Academia, Regulatory and Commercialization. Through strong relationships with global regulatory agencies, academic institutions and industry partners, ISCT drives the advancement of research into standard of care.
Comprised of over 2,300 cell and gene therapy experts across five geographic regions and representation from over 60 countries, ISCT members are part of a global community of peers, thought leaders and organizations invested in cell and gene therapy translation. For more information about the society, key initiatives and upcoming meetings, please visit: www.isctglobal.org, @ISCTglobal.
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