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GATE kick-off event 2021

8 October 2021

On Friday 8 October 2021 the GATE kick-off event took place at the Rodebol in Gent. In attracting more than 150 delegates from academia and industry, 4 sessions (featuring >25 scientific talks and industry pitches showcasing successful collaborations between U(Z)Gent and industry) and 2 extensive panel discussions by industry experts about the future directions of gene & cell therapy and regenerative medicine, the first GATE conference proved to be a success.

During the breaks, the participants engaged in lively discussions and took the opportunity to extent their existing networks.

Summary and highlights of the day

Prof Phillip Blondeel (chairman of GATE) and Prof Piet Hoebeke (dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Ghent University) welcomed the participants and highlighted examples of excellent research, the role of the university hospital and the importance of recent industry investments into the emerging Ghent ecosystem around gene, cell and tissue therapy.

Our keynote speaker, Prof Heinz Redl, founder of the Austrian Cluster of Tissue Regeneration, shared with us best-practices for running a multi-disciplinary, multi- institutional organization to develop new and better regenerative therapies for patients.

During the scientific sessions, researchers presented platform technologies developed at Ghent University, ranging from a diversity of tools for RNA delivery (Prof Stefaan De Smedt, Prof Bruno De Geest), biomaterials (Prof Sandra Van Vlierberghe, Prof Richard Hoogenboom), stretchable microsystems (Prof Jan Vanfleteren) and GMP grade blood- derived factors that promote cell and tissue manufacturing (Dr Willem Delabie).

Inspiring research on gene therapy for epilepsy was presented by Prof Robrecht Raedt, while Prof Bart Leroy spoke about inherited retinal dystrophies and highlighted the role of Ghent University Hospital in the development of Luxturna for the treatment of inherited blindness, the first FDA’s approved gene therapy. Scientific talks were followed by a panel discussion featuring delegates from UCB, J&J, Novartis and ProQR discussing the future landscape of RNA-based therapies from an industry perspective.

Prof Linos Vandekerckhove elaborated on CAR-T cell therapy to cure HIV as an example of bench to bedside research, and Prof Bart Vandekerckhove emphasized the importance of the GMP unit at the Ghent University Hospital to accelerate research into gene and cell therapies towards first-in-human clinical studies. Prof Phillip Blondeel discussed tissue engineering using a combination of adipose-derived stem cells, biomaterials and 3D printing as a future tissue therapy solution for breast reconstruction. In a following panel discussion, representatives from BIO-INX, Avroxa, Materialise, Rousselot, European Spatial Biology Center, QbD and Univercells provided their expert opinion on the impact of enabling technologies on ATMP development and in the long run on patient accessibility to ATMP.

The event was made possible through the support of our sponsors Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novartis, Lonza, Miltenyi Biotec, ProteinTech, Rousselot and Univercells Technologies.