CombiGene’s Chief Scientific Officer Karin Agerman and Senior Director In-licensing Birgitta Ståhl recently visited the ASGCT 2023 conference in Los Angeles, USA. ASGCT stands for American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy and is an organization of scientists, physicians, and patient advocates engaged in gene and cell therapy.
“The ASGCT conference is an important conference for CombiGene as its purpose is to present the latest findings in gene and cell therapy as well as new research and new indications that could be interesting in our efforts to further broaden CombiGene’s project portfolio. This year’s conference was a hybrid conference with a total of 8,000 registered participants, of which 6,600 were on site in LA,” says Karin Agerman, Chief Scientific Officer at CombiGene. “A conference of this magnitude is difficult to summarize given the large amount of information and data presented, but among the highlights from CombiGene’s perspective were the focus on AAV-based gene therapy and the possibilities of making gene therapy more organ specific through improved vector design. Since CombiGene works with AAV vectors, this element was particularly interesting. Another hot topic at the conference was CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) which can be used to edit genes. This research area is developing rapidly, but still has major challenges that need to be solved before it can be widely used clinically.”
Another major topic at the conference was the healthcare reimbursement system in the US. The current system is based on chronic care models where compensation for a wide range of illnesses is paid for at several payment occasions over many years. Gene therapy turns this model on its head through its potential to offer a lifelong cure or recovery for a growing number of diseases through one or a few treatments. The cost of gene therapy is thus not spread out over time like today’s treatments, something that current reimbursement systems are not yet equipped for.
“One interesting session I attended was about the combination of AAV-based gene therapy and immunotherapy to create a completely new treatment modality to fight cancer,” says Birgitta Ståhl, CombiGene’s Senior Director In-licensing. “In addition to an intensive search for new knowledge, Karin and I also spent considerable time looking for new potential projects for in-licensing and we identified a number of interesting opportunities that we are now following up. CombiGene’s stated ambition is to in-license additional projects to build an increasingly stronger gene therapy company,” Birgitta concludes.