2018 ISCT Career Achievement Award in Cell &Gene Therapy
The ISCT Career Achievement Award was created in 2016 to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of cellular therapy, including to ISCT itself. ISCT recognizes that the field of cellular therapy depends upon multiple contributing sources, including academia, regulatory affairs (including quality operations), and industry. Each source represents a pillar upon which the organization stands. Any member of ISCT may place a name in nomination for the award with supporting information outlining the rational for choosing the individual, their contributions to the field and the significance of those contributions. The nominees are reviewed and the most appropriate is selected by the ISCT Awards Sub-Committee. Final approval is by the ISCT Executive Committee. The award itself is presented at the ISCT Annual Meeting and includes a crystal award, $2,500 cash, travel, lodging, and registration for the meeting.
I am honored to have been asked to write an article describing the many reasons why Nancy H. Collins, PhD, was selected as the third recipient of the ISCT Career Achievement Award. She received this prestigious award on May 3, 2018 at the ISCT annual meeting in Montreal. Nancy is well-suited for this award as illustrated by her many contributions to the field of cellular therapy, from the early days of bone marrow transplantation where she literally defined the role of Laboratory Facility Director, through to the present. She played a pivotal role in the transplant program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), where she was the laboratory director from 1982 to 2007. She not only directed the laboratory, she taught BMT clinical and research fellows (including me), and attending physicians how to do the processing procedure, which was a lengthy and very complicated, multi-step process, while maintaining sterility. She worked side by side with her students every minute until (and often even after) they had mastered the process to ensure all went according to SOP. The patient research I was doing at the time on posttransplant immune reconstitution was performed around the clinical processing, which always had priority. The weariness of the long days and late nights on transplant days was offset by the strong and long-lasting friendships that developed between the program members sharing those hoods.
Indeed, it was largely the efforts of Nancy herself that brought me into the field of cellular therapy in 1984. I was finishing up my PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Wake Forest University and was presenting my work defining the major histocompatibility complex of theCynomolgus monkey at a scientific meeting. There I was approached by the Histocompatibility Laboratory Director at MSKCC who wanted to put me in contact with Richard J. O’Reilly, the BMT program director. Richard was using the Cynomolgus monkey as a transplant model and wanted a way to determine when (or if) engraftment had occurred. While I spoke initially with Richard, it was Nancy Collins who set up the collaboration with me. From the time I mentioned that I might like to do my post doctorial fellowship in blood and marrow transplantation, rather than becoming a histocompatibility laboratory director as I had intended, she called me weekly to encourage me to come to New York. It was Nancy who convinced me how much better it would be to work in a new field where both histocompatibility and immunology were critically important. She taught me what translational research meant, and the satisfaction of being part of a team that was doing both research and saving patients’ lives.
That was the start of my relationship with Nancy Collins. She has been a trusted colleague and friend ever since. It was after I had moved on that Nancy became very concerned that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was planning to regulate the field. Having come from a transplant program that was all about research and making transplant better, she was particularly sensitive to the danger than if not done correctly, FDA oversight could impede progress. It was this concern that Nancy together with Adrian Gee (the recipient of last year’s award) started the process of creating a society that was focused on cellular therapy for clinical applications as well as clinical research. The focus would be to standardize practices using the expertise of those knew the most about it. This effort began in 1991 shortly after I started a new job as the Cellular Processing Laboratory Director at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I was very busy getting the lab in order there, as Nancy had taught me, but much like my initial recruitment as a post doc, she kept me informed and solicited my involvement in creating this new society. It was not just me she recruited into action, but many other colleagues as well. One of Nancy great strengths is her outgoing personality, and the effort she makes to establish personal relationships with her colleagues. She is always happy to help others and is willing to share her experience and expertise, which is why when Nancy calls to ask for help it is hard to say no.
Once ISCT (or then known as ISHAGE) was established, she in her role as the founding president helped initiate the writing of laboratory standards. So as with ISCT Itself, Nancy played a major role in the creation of the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), which was jointly founded by ISCT and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) to be an independent body that would complete development of laboratory and clinical standards. Here too she was founding member of the FACT board of directors. Nancy was instrumental in recruiting individuals from other cell processing laboratories to be actively involved in these efforts. The volunteer effort to peer regulate and standardize the cellular therapy field goes on today. Throughout the early 1990’s ISCT also made a concerted effort to inform FDA by participating in private meetings and attending CBER sponsored workshops to ask and answer questions. Although FDA did institute the CFR1271 GTP regulations for cellular therapy products, those regulations were not in conflict with the FACT standards that Nancy helped to create, indicating that the efforts at communication were effective.
Nancy has really done it all and has given so much of her time and effort to advancing our field. To clearly appreciate her effort it is worthwhile to show a selected list of her involvement that includes:
- Director of the Allogeneic Stem Cell Facility/Cytotherapy Laboratory at MSKCC (1980-2007), 27 years
- Founding President (1993-1995)
- Chair Board of Directors (1996-1997)
- Regulatory Action Group (1995-2000)
- Co-editor-in-chief of the society journals, J. Hematotherapy/Cytotherapy (1991-2002), editorial board (1991-present)
- Participation in the organizing committees of ISCT annual meetings (N=4), regional meetings (N=3) and Somatic Cell Therapy Symposium (N=1)
- Outreach Committee for North American Legal and Regulatory Affairs (2014-present)
- FACT (1995-2015)
- Founding member of the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy
- Board of directors (1996-2009), 14 years
- Inspector (1996-2015), 19 years
- Cellular Therapy Laboratory inspector, 19 years
- FACT/NETCORD Cord Blood Bank Laboratory inspector, 16 years
- More than minimal manipulation inspector, 3 years
- Standards Development (2000-2011), 11 years
- Cellular Therapy and Cord Blood standards committees, served as member or co-chair
- Overall chair of the 4th edition of both Cellular Therapy and Cord Blood Standards
- FACT Inspector and Facility Training Workshop presenter (multiple)
- FACT Cellular Therapy Accreditation Committee (1995-2015)
- FACT Cord Blood Accreditation Committee (2006-2015)
- FACT Quality Management Committee and Quality Manual Committee (2008-present)
- FACT representative to multi-institutional Circular of Information for the Use of Cellular Therapy Products Committee (2007-2014)
- AABB Cellular Therapy Standards Committee (2007-2009)
- National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)
- Standards Committee Chair (1999-2000)
- Research and Publications Committee (2001-2005)
- Awards Committee (2001-2005)
- Multi-center study PI (2003-2005)
- Professor, University of Toledo, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Chair, Women’s Programs Initiative, University of Toledo Health Science Campus. Part time (2007-2011)
- Assisting creation of autologous transplant laboratory
- BOD of the altruistic kidney donor organization
- Professor, University of Toledo, Dept of Medicine, Community Volunteer Faculty (2011-present)
- Leadership roles mentoring and development of women in science
- United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) (2005-2010)
- Cell and Gene Therapy Expert Committee
- Representative to Cellular Devices Working Group of ISCT
- National Institute of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) (1997-2008)
- Data Safety and Monitoring Board, Cord Blood Transplant Program
- Graft Characterization Subcommittee, NHLBI T Cell Depletion Trial
- External Review Board, Production Assistance for Cellular Therapies (PACT Group)
- BMT Clinical Trials Network Laboratory SOP Development Committee
- FACT Consulting Service (2015-present)
In addition to this long list of service to the Cellular Therapy community, Nancy has also found time to devote to women’s issues, including the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). She has been involved in AWIS membership committees, the organizing of workshops for female high school students interested in becoming scientists, and as might be expected, served on the steering committee of her local AWIS chapter.
Given her central role in the MSKCC program, Nancy was integral to the scientific advances made while she was serving as the Laboratory Director. She is a co-author in 44 peer reviewed publications from that period. She has additionally authored 33 monographs or reviews, many of which are methods, or guidance for FACT standards.
Believe it or not, Nancy has also found the time to devote to her husband of 49 years, Gene, their two children, Tyler and Sarah, and 4 grandchildren. Nancy is always happy to show off the grandchildren, and forget tiny digital pictures on the phone, she brings a stack of prints. We have maintained a good friendship though the years, even though we live so far apart. That is the good thing about the cellular therapy community, we get to see each other at meetings and since she recruited me into so many of the same activities she helped to create, Nancy and I don’t go too long without being on the same conference call or in the same location. I was always impressed with how difficult it was to walk through a meeting with her, when you really needed to get to the next session. She was stopped every few feet by colleagues all of whom wanted to catch up and of course, needed to see the latest pictures of the grandchildren.
As you can see from the list of her activities and contributions, Nancy really did not slow down very much after retiring from MSKCC, indeed she then had even more time to devote to the organizations that she had helped to establish. Even now she continues to contribute to the field as a FACT consultant, and remains an active member of ISCT.
I am so pleased that Nancy was selected to receive the third ISCT Career Achievement Award. I know it meant a lot to her to be recognized by her peers for all that she accomplished. She has served as a positive role model for so many of us, both peers and for the younger members of our profession. Congratulations Nancy H. Collins, PhD, you have made us all proud.
Carolyn A. Keever-Taylor, PhD
Professor of Medicine (Retired)
Medical College of Wisconsin