History and Overview
Who We Are
The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) is a non-profit medical and professional organization that represents researchers and scientists devoted to the discovery of new genetic and cellular therapies. ASGCT was established in 1996 by Dr. George Stamatoyannopoulos, professor of medicine at the University of Washington's School of Medicine and a group of the country's leading researchers in gene therapy. With nearly 2,400 members in the United States and worldwide, ASGCT is the largest association of individuals involved in genetic and cellular therapeutics. The Society's Executive Office is located in Milwaukee, WI.
Governed by its officers and Board of Directors, ASGCT has eleven standing committees, including Clinical Trials and Regulatory Affairs, Ethics, Education, Membership, and Program, and 15 scientific committees that focus on disease-specific issues such as cancer, cardiovascular, genetic, musculo-skeletal, infectious, and neural degenerative disorders.
Our Mission and Vision
THE MISSION of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) is to advance knowledge, awareness, and education leading to the discovery and clinical application of genetic and cellular therapies to alleviate human disease.
ASGCT's STRATEGIC VISION is to be a catalyst for bringing together scientists, physicians, patient advocates, and other stakeholders to transform the practice of medicine by incorporating the use of genetic and cellular therapies to control and cure human disease.
Definition of Gene Therapy
Gene therapy can be defined as the use of genetic material to modify a patient's cells for the treatment of an inherited or acquired disease. For diseases that are caused by a small number of inherited genetic changes, such as cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy, gene therapy uses the correct genes that are introduced into the patient. For acquired diseases like cancer, gene therapy uses genes to directly or indirectly cause the demise of the cancerous cells. By administration of DNA rather than a drug, many different acquired diseases are currently being investigated as candidates for gene therapy, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and infectious diseases such as viral hepatitis and HIV infection in addition to cancer.
The concept of gene therapy was introduced in the late 1970s after the development of recombinant DNA technology. After the development of basic science and technology for gene transfer into patient's cells by numerous investigators, the first gene therapy trial on humans was performed in 1990 by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. A four-year-old girl was treated for adenosine deaminase deficiency (ADA), a rare genetic disease in which children are born with severe immunodeficiency and are prone to repeated serious infections. Since then gene therapy has been applied in clinical trials to treat a variety of diseases.
- Methods of Gene Therapy Infusion
Vectors are the vehicles that carry the genetic information into the patient's cells for treatment of diseases. Each vector system has unique properties. Therefore, different vectors will be required for treating the variety of diseases amenable to gene transfer. Vectors can be introduced into cells from the patient's body (e.g. blood cells) and then reintroduced into the patient, or the vectors can be administered directly into the body through injection or even possibly by mouth.
- Viral Delivery System
In this method, doctors isolate the disease-related gene and inject it into human tissues by using a gene delivery vehicle called a "vector." A vector is typically a disabled virus that is capable of efficiently delivering genes into patients' cells, but cannot reproduce itself and cause disease. When the vector is injected into the tissue affected by the illness, it unloads the DNA within the target cells in the patients, which then begins producing the therapeutic protein. While the first-generation gene delivery systems encountered problems with toxic side effects, scientists today are optimistic that new vectors developed since 1999 will be much safer and more effective.
- Non-Viral Delivery System
Scientists are developing methods to package DNA into nanoparticles using biosynthetic material for gene delivery into patients' cells. The goal of these vectors is to reduce the side effects and for the vector to have very precise man-made properties specific for each disease. While the efficiency of gene delivery is generally not as high as viral vectors and needs improvement, this method of gene delivery holds great promise in the future.
ASGCT Historical Highlights
- The Society enrolled less than 1,000 members in 1996. Today, that number has grown to nearly 2,400 members worldwide and 1,300 Active Members in the United States.
- ASGCT launched Molecular Therapy, its official scientific Journal, in 2000. The monthly publication features papers in the general area of gene transfer, gene and cell therapies, experimental models for correction of genetic and acquired disease and clinical trials.
- The Bio-Industry Liaison Committee was initiated in 2001, comprised of members from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies involved in gene and cell therapy research and product development.
- In 2005, a new committee on Public Education and Outreach was constituted.
- At the 2005 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, MO, there were close to 2,000 attendees. Of these, 73 percent work in a university or research institute, 54 percent have PhDs and 28 percent are medical doctors.
- The 2007 Annual Meeting celebrated the Society's 10th year.
- In 2009, the Society officially changed its name to the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy.
- In 2010, the ASGCT leadership underwent a comprehensive strategic planning initiative. For more information on ASGCT’s five year strategic plan, please click here.
- ASGCT implemented two new programs in 2011: the Translational Science Training Course and the NIH Gene Therapy Symposium.
- ASGCT was established in 1996.
- Annual Meeting History: 1998 (1st Annual Meeting) – Seattle, WA; 1999 – Washington, D.C.; 2000 – Denver, CO; 2001 – Seattle, WA; 2002 – Boston, MA, 2003 – Washington D.C.; 2004 – Minneapolis, MN; 2005 – St. Louis, MO; 2006 – Baltimore, MD; 2007 – Seattle, WA; 2009 – Boston, MA; 2009 – San Diego, CA; 2010 – Washington, DC; 2011 – Seattle, WA.
- Current membership: 2,000 worldwide and 1,400 Active Members in the United States.
- Thirteenth Annual Meeting attendance: 1,672. Of the attendees, 73% work in a university or research institute, 54% are PhDs and 28% are MDs. Roughly 950 abstracts were submitted to the meeting.
- More than 40 companies showcased products and services that represent the latest advances in gene and cell therapy.
- ASGCT produces a monthly journal, Molecular Therapy, which publishes scientifically meritorious papers in the general area of gene transfer, gene and cell therapies, experimental models for correction of genetic and acquired disease and clinical trials. Molecular Therapy is the most cited journal in gene therapy, according to ISI Essential Science Indicators.
- The website for the ASGCT is www.asgct.org. The site features information on ASGCT membership, bylaws, press releases, position statements, the Annual Meeting information and other sites of interest relating to gene and cell therapy.
- Active Members: Individuals who have manifested an interest in any discipline important to gene therapy, cell therapy, or manufacturing technologies for gene and cell delivery, as evidenced by work in the field are eligible for Active Membership. Active members shall pay dues and have all privileges of the Society including, but not limited to, the right to vote, serve on committees, hold office, and serve on the Board of Directors.
- Associate Member: The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy Associate Membership is designed for individuals who are Graduate Students or Postdoctoral Fellows in gene and cell therapy research programs. Associate Members may renew their dues annually at the reduced Associate Member rate for up to four years. Extension of this period will require new documentation of the graduate student or postdoctoral fellow status. If such documentation is not received at the executive office at the end of the four-year period, membership will be automatically converted to the Society's Active Member status.