The 20th Annual Meeting of ASGCT held in Washington in May 2017 featured a
timeline prepared by Ted Friedmann and Cindy Dunbar that showed selected events
in the gene and cell therapy field since the founding of ASGT as it was initially known
and the Society’s first meeting. Several slides provided a reminder of the early days of
gene therapy when an NIH panel convened to assess investment in gene therapy
research concluded that many clinical trials were premature and more investment in
basic science was needed. Presentations at this year’s meeting illustrated how the
field has advanced since then with many examples of iterative bench to bedside
progress leading to late phase trials and clinical benefit for patients with both
inherited genetic and acquired diseases. The 2017 annual meeting was memorable
not only for the quality of the basic, translational, and clinical science but also for the
spectacular venue for the ASGCT 20th Anniversary Reception held at the Library of
Congress. I would like to thank Cindy Dunbar for organizing such a superb meeting and
for her leadership as President over the last year. I would also like to thank the departing Board members for their contributions and welcome the newly elected Board members.
ASGCT is currently in the second year of implementing its strategic plan. One major initiative is education and we are partnering with other organizations to deliver specialized content. On June 28th we co-hosted the second of a series of webinars with the Foundation for Accreditation of Cell Therapy (FACT) on CD19-targeted CAR T cells: Efficacy, Cytokine Release and Risk Management with presentations from Drs. Marco Davila and Marcela Maus. This webinar was well received with an attendance of more than 150. At my institution a diverse audience of scientists, clinicians, nurse practitioners, GMP staff and research trainees attended this webinar attracted by the timely topic as well as the pizza we provided. For those not able to attend in real time the webinar is available for free download to ASGCT members. A second initiative is two webinars that ASGCT is developing with the Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) to present in August. The first webinar will explain the basics of gene therapy while the second webinar will explain how gene therapy can be used to treat hemophilia and answer patient questions.
Another strategic goal is to increase government relations/advocacy efforts and to that end we have established three pillars of our advocacy platform, defining the value of gene and cell therapy, supporting research funding, and performing education and outreach to policy-makers. Finally, the ASGCT office has been devoting considerable effort to the development of an updated website which has an expected launch in October with fresh design, new content, and more intuitive navigation.
Next year ASGCT will convene its 21st Annual Meeting which will for the first time be in Chicago located in the downtown area close to the lakefront, Millennium Park, museum district, and the Magnificent Mile. We anticipate that as the society comes of age we will also be able to celebrate the first approved gene therapy products in the United States.
Helen Heslop, MD
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