Presidents Letter

Welcome to the British Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (BSGCT), now in the 11th year of existence. Our mission is to promote gene and cell therapy both to the professional and lay audience. As you will see from our web pages we possess a rich resource of activities. These largely centre on our annual meeting but we are also active throughout the year (Please see our “events” page).

Recently, we held the 12th annual meeting of the British Society for Gene and Cell therapy in Glasgow. This was an exceptional event that brought together almost 400 members of the public and school children for the education day, and approximately 250 scientists and clinicians for the scientific sessions. We were particularly grateful to our exhibitors and sponsors who supported this meeting in the midst of challenging economic times.

Technology and fundamental knowledge has advanced quickly over the last decade resulting in notable clinical successes in diverse areas, and as a result the number of tractable disease targets is burgeoning. The area of stem cell science has also grown enormously, and has attracted much public excitement. Yet there are clear lessons to be learned from the field of gene therapy where expectation in early days vastly exceeded the potential to deliver health benefits to patients, let alone miraculous cures for devastating disease. The two disciplines are not entirely dissimilar, and it is therefore no coincidence that this society has taken active steps to engage the national stem cell community in order to develop obvious synergies.

A major vision for our society is to integrate gene and cell therapy communities. The fundamental tools that underpin gene therapy are being fully incorporated to stem cell biology and therefore there is clear synergy in working together closely. Since the 1980s, gene targeting has been developed in parallel with stem cell biology in the development of knockout mouse models of human disease. With the advent of nuclease-directed targeting, this technology is now finding widespread application in human stem cells.Gene therapy allowed recombinant viruses to be easily modfied to carry reprogramming cargoes. This founded the exponentially-growing field of induced pluripotent stem cells, which was the focus of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2012. Now genetic and stem cell technologies are going full circle together. This is providing greater insight into metabolic and genetic disease, which in turn will offer new targets for drug and gene therapy.

We are grateful to an exceptional panel of internationally-recognised speakers and more junior scientists at the forefront of the genetic and stem cell fields that contributed to our conference in 2015. Moving forward, we are holding a one day meeting in London in April 2016 focussed on AAV in gene therapy. We are also planning our traditional 3 day meeting in 2017. Please keep checking our website for updates on these events and more. These promise to be very rewarding meetings so please keep updated with our events. Further, we are working with other gene therapy societies to maximise the global impact of gene and cell therapy, both professionally and in an educational capacity.”

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Andy-BakerProfessor Andrew H Baker PhD FRSE, BSGCT President

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