Two weeks ago, the Cellix team travelled to Prague to participate in Cyto 2018, a conference discussing the cutting edge of flow cytometry research.
In the third of a 4 part series, we're looking at innovative applications for gene therapy.
One of the end goals of any field aimed at human therapeutics is the eradication of disease. However, diseases such as HIV currently can't be cured, and treatments are aimed instead at ameliorating symptoms and stopping progression of the disease. With this in mind, I headed along to the Miltenyi commercial tutorial at Cyto '18, which was co-presented by Dr. Stefan Radtke from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle.
Stefan gave a talk on his work using closed-system sorting for stem cell-mediated HIV gene therapy, and gave the same talk at the Therapeutic Cell Sorting workshop.
Again, as in Christopher Groves talk, I saw a trend towards sterility becoming an issue as the applied therapeutic aspect of flow cytometry becomes more prominent.
Also outlined in his talk his was Stefan's own workflow targeting blood stem cells for gene therapy; allogenic transplantation from the patient, gene therapy based treatment on the transplant without expansion, and re-infusing the patient with their own modified cells. Interestingly, unlike CAR-T cell therapy, this process does not involve expansion of the population of target cells.
Stefan mentioned opportunities in the field; a figure of a potential 40 million patients whose lives could be improved by the use of gene therapy, the development of new tools, and the increasing number of clinical studies around this aspect (500+). He also discussed the challenges in the field - particularly the grade of consumables and reagents needed, and the need for labour to be done in a clean room.
Stefan's own background in flow cytometry is of note; he worked with Miltenyi on the evolution of the CliniMACS system to a portable version, and so has an in-depth understanding of the current capabilities and limitations of the field.
The talk was a refreshing look at the reality as well as the challenges of the human therapeutic applications of flow cytometry which were so talked about this year. I'll be watching this space to see when Stefan's work moves from a primate model into the clinic.
The work Stefan is doing is really pioneering the future of gene therapy, and was an encouraging look at the potentials of gene therapy to change people's lives for the better using this powerful technology.