Conference 2007 Update
Nearly 850 scientists and exhibitors from around the world converged on the downtown Minneapolis Hyatt for the 2007 Transplantation Society Joint Conference in September. This was the first-ever combined meeting of the three sections of the Transplantation Society – the Cell Transplant Society (CTS), the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association (IPITA), and the International Xenotransplantation Association (IXA). The Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation international network was one of the lead sponsors for this impressive conference.
This joint meeting, organized by and presided over by joint conference president Dr. Bernhard Hering, facilitated unprecedented cross-pollination of ideas between the society sections.
The fascinating meeting brought presentations on new developments and progress made in human organ, cell, and tissue transplantation; as well as progress towards xenotransplantation, the transplantation of animal cells, tissues, or organs into humans, and progress in stem cell initiatives. The presentations highlighted that we are on the cusp of major medical advances in immunosuppression, including innovative approaches in prevention of rejection of transplanted organs, as well as the utility of animal organs to overcome the donor shortage, most likely beginning with islet transplants for diabetic patients. Stem cells continue to be considered the future of transplantation, despite being mired in ethical and safety concerns for the short term.
Other interesting topics included ethics, immunotherapy advances, genetic modification of donor animals, tissue engineering, regeneration, gene therapy, organ preservation, islet isolation, and the black market of human organs, to name just a few.
For readers with an interest in diabetes, a highlight of the conference was the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation (DRWF) Symposium on Islet Replacement, featuring an excellent overview of the major advances toward producing readily available, safe, effective islets for transplantation. Spring Point Project, an initiative founded by Dr. Hering, and supported by DRWF was highlighted as a key to making the porcine donor animals available in the near future to facilitate clinical applicability of all the advances made to date in the preclinical setting.
Also of note during the proceedings was a satellite symposium chaired by Spring Point Project’s CEO Dr. Henk-Jan Schuurman focused on Source Pigs for Xenotransplantation Trials, which resulted in lively debate on the best way to produce designated pathogen free animals.
Spring Point Project conducted a wonderful and well attended reception, entitled “Partners on the Shortest Path to the Cure” during the symposium, which attracted luminaries of the transplantation world. Present and speaking in support of Dr. Hering and Spring Point Project were notable individuals such as Carl-Gustav Groth MD PhD, founding and Honorary President, International Xenotransplantation Association, and past president of the Transplantation Society, and the International Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Association; David E Sutherland MD, Director of the Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation and a pioneer in pancreas and islet transplantation; Richard N. Pierson III, MD President-Elect of the International Xenotransplantation Association; and David K.C. Cooper MD, PhD, FRCS, Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a pioneer of the field of xenotransplantation and editor of the scientific journal “Xenotransplantation”. Also present and speaking were Tom Cartier, Spring Point Project’s founder and president, and Pat Ryan, board member of Spring Point Project, and various notables in the field of xenotransplantation such as Dr. Camillo Ricordi, famous for his advances in islet isolation technology who extolled the vision of Dr. Hering in founding Spring Point Project. The reception highlighted the partnership between the University of Minnesota, in particular the Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation, and Spring Point Project, and the generous financial support by DRWF.
The symposium gala dinner was a highlight of the festivities, presided over by Dr. John Najarian, former Chief of Surgery at the University of Minnesota, and a world renowned pioneer in organ transplantation. The dinner entitled “Esteemed Experts Exchange Epiphanies, Eurekas, and Euphorias Experienced in and Exuberant Era of Experimentation“ was filled with fascinating stories of how far transplantation has come in a short period of time, and how close we are to the euphoria of eliminating the organ shortage all those in need including diabetics.
At the occasion of the Conference, Board Members and Trustees of DRWF held their annual meeting this year in Minneapolis, and attended the DRWF Symposium on Islet Cell Replacement. Thereafter, the International Board visited the DRWF Islet Resource Facility on Thursday afternoon, September 20. Spring Point Project staff welcomed all Board members from Washington, United Kingdom and France, and introduced the ongoing work in the facility in breeding the ‘medical grade’ pigs in the pathogen-free barrier. Thereafter they visited the rooms outside the barrier to get an impression on all the technologic building equipment. There were many lively discussions and detailed questions answered. For our staff this was a unique opportunity to explain many details to DRWF delegates, who expressed their enthusiasm on all what’s going on to keep the pigs disease-free! This was a very successful and productive visit, and we are most grateful for their interest and support of our work!