From the President’s Desk: Regionalism Adds Depth to the ISCT International Vision
Jacques Galipeau, MD FRCP(C)
Don and Marilyn Anderson Professor in OncologyAssociate Dean for Therapeutics Development University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
The former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, a witty American politician of Irish ascent, famously stated that “all politics is local”. The same can be said for high-tech pharmaceuticals of the CGT flavor we cherish. At the end of the day, our Society’ Vision is the administration of an effective and affordable CGT to a person in need in their hometown, close to their loved ones in an environment that draws comfort. CGT deployment is - as with all therapies - a local affair. The geographic location of that hometown more than any other variable determines whether an ill child can access a promising investigational or approved CGT and possibly benefit from a cure or not.
Undoubtedly, the cell attributes of a mesenchymal stromal cell or CAR-T are identical in Munich and Mumbai. Cell biology knows no manmade geopolitical boundary. Indeed, our shared interest in CGT biological science, cell processing engineering and related scientific pursuits, as well as regulatory and commercial best practices, inform a large part of what unites our worldwide membership intellectually and motivates in good part our yearly international gatherings.
Yet a parallel organizing principle frames the opportunities and constraints for the deployment of CGTs to patients in need: the regulatory and commercialization idiosyncrasies dictated by National and regional policymakers. There is little debate between national regulatory entities on the scientific methods through clinical trials to establish first safety and later efficacy of pharmaceutical interventions writ large, let them be a pill, a biologic or a CGT. However, national regulatory entities with their own bespoke marketing approval and reimbursement schemes will have a major impact on regional deployment through “at scale” commercialization or hospital-based CGT deployment models.
Hence, the ISCT membership structure is predicated on geography as well as professional interests. Our Society’ membership is largely segregated as primarily scientific, lab technologists, regulatory & ethics and commercial. These themes map to more than 40 committees within ISCT. To this matrix, our membership is functionally managed through regional committees roughly defined by distinct regulatory environments: North America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, South & Central America and Asia.
These regional committees and their leadership are critical to maintain and grow local membership for our Society by provision of regional meetings and networking micro meeting events that address the unique local scientific, regulatory and commercial regionalisms. Local sourcing also provides lower cost in-person quality meetings for trainees and ISCT members, in particular lab technologists, who may ill afford the time and treasure required to attend the flagship yearly ISCT international powwow.
Zlatibor Velickovic is the current vice president for the Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) region and with his crack regional leadership team delivered with alacrity in early August a wildly successful, in person, regional meeting in Brisbane that was extremely well attended by all manner of ISCT ANZ members, in particular ESPs starved for some rayonnement of their work. Students attended for free! New ISCT membership applications in all categories soared, renewals abounded, enthusiasm was rekindled and already they are planning for next year. Regional meetings mini, midi and maxi sized do address an important gap in networking that Zlatibor’ team showed can be delivered promptly, cost-effectively and with success outcomes far exceeding expectations.
Bryan Choi (VP Asia region), Massimiliano Gnecchi (VP Europe), Antonio Carlos Campos de Carvalho (VP South and Central America) and Patrick Hanley (VP North America) lead engaged volunteer teams for our other regions, many of which with regional bespoke ISCT-partnered networking events in the making. It takes a village to make these regional meetings, micro meetings and partnered events happen and I enjoin the yeomen ISCT membership of all ilk to reach out to their regional leadership directly with ideas, volunteered time, and creative sponsorship schemes to make these local events part of what is special of ISCT.
That said, I do hope to see as many of you as possible in Paris 2023! Start planning now for your abstract submissions. It’ll be a blast.