A/Prof Zlatibor Veličković, PhD
ISCT Vice President, ANZ Region
Facility Director, Cell & Tissue Therapies WA, Royal Perth Hospital. WA
The Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) regional ISCT meeting was held in Perth in August this year during the Nyoongar season of Djilba. It has been 13 years since the ISCT ANZ meeting was last in Western Australia (WA), and I am happy to report it has been the most successful regional meeting to date. We had 205 delegates in attendance, a record number for the region, coming from Australia and New Zealand and from around the globe: USA, Europe, Singapore, Korea, India, China, Indonesia and South Africa.
The three-day program was jam-packed with Cell and Gene Therapies (CGT) content over 13 sessions with 24 invited speakers and 71 submitted abstracts showcasing emerging technologies, preclinical research and translation to clinical practice in the region. We had tremendous support from the industry and the government, with a record-breaking number of sponsorships (18) for the meeting.
On day one, Betty Garlett, Wadjuk Noongar elder, welcomed ISCT ANZ delegates to Perth on the banks of the Derbal Yerrigan, the Swan River. We were privileged to have Hon. Stephen Dawson, Minister for Emergency Services; Innovation and the Digital Economy; Science; Medical Research; Minister Assisting The Minister For State And Industry Development, Jobs And Trade, officially open the meeting. The plenary session themed "The Coming of Age of Cell and Gene Therapies" featured two renowned international speakers. Prof Jacques Galipeau, current ISCT President, presented an insightful and thought-provoking talk on sustainable access to personalised Cell and Gene Therapies, generating a robust discussion that echoed throughout the meeting. Prof Marina Cavazzana delivered this year's Geoff Symonds oration with an overview of gene therapies for hemoglobinopathies.
ISCT ANZ introduced several novel initiatives in the program this year, including financial support for Early Stage Professionals (ESPs) to attend the meeting. ISCT ANZ awarded 19 travel stipends to ANZ ESPs residing outside of WA and eight free registrations for WA-based ESPs.
The first joint session with the Australian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) featured the region's current stem cell research with talks focusing on human skin regeneration, iPSCs and cell therapies for eye diseases.
Prof William Hwang, the ISCT Asia Vice President, opened the inaugural ISCT ANZ - ISCT Asia session and informed us of the vibrant CGT landscape in Singapore with many opportunities for collaboration between the two regions. It certainly complements the efforts of the recently established ISCT APAC Industry Committee.
Another first this year was the ESP social event organised by ISCT ANZ at a secret warehouse location. It was a hit with the ESP crowd judging by the interest and demand for directions to the secret location, but you will find more on this in the ESP section penned by the ISCT ANZ ESP subcommittee in this issue.
Regulatory sessions remain popular with the delegates, especially for providing the opportunity to "grill the regulators" with some tricky scenarios and questions. Read more about this year's highlights in the piece prepared by the ISCT ANZ LRA committee.
On the last day of the program, we featured two clinical presentations from the esteemed international speaker A/Prof Matt Frank, who informed the delegates of the durable remission outcomes in patients treated with CD22 CAR T-cells following CD19 CAR T relapse and how to predict outcomes and resistance mechanisms of CAR T-cell therapies.
The program ended with "the great debate" around centralised vs. decentralised CGT manufacturing and whether the region needs more cleanrooms. After much discussion, we agreed to continue our conversation at our next annual meeting in picturesque Queenstown in New Zealand.
So save the date folks!
ISCT ANZ 2024, 7-9 AUGUST 2024 .
I can't wait.
Zlatibor Velickovic PhD
ISCT Vice President, Australia and New Zealand region.