The 25th European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT) meeting was taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, from the 14th to the 17th of May. This major conference with a special focus on CHO cells was attended by almost all eCHO PIs and six ESRs and gave us the opportunity to present our work and progress to the CHO community and world-renowned experts in the field. The 4 days conference was packed with enticing talks, great poster sessions, excellent networking and above all an even deeper integration of eCHO in the CHO society.
Before the keynote lecture on the first conference day, special symposium sessions were held, which enabled us ESRs to participate in vivid discussions and gain insights about current issues, challenges and solutions of biopharmaceutical production in academia and industry. Thereafter, the official conference started with an inspiring talk by Lee Ann Laurent-Applegate of CHUV Lausanne about cell therapy approaches and applications in the Swiss transplantation program. The following Cell Engineering and Analytics session, which was spanning into the early evening of day 2, was comprised of 16 (!) talks covering CHO cell metabolism engineering, engineered transcription factors, miRNAs and glycoengineering amongst other topics. Hence, we were highly curious and attentive to map our ongoing activities to those of other groups.
However, the highlight of the day was certainly the spotlight talk by Ricardo, in which he was (next to 17 other candidates out of 382 posters!) invited to present his poster in 5 minutes. Ricardo professionally presented his work about miRNAs as genetic switches in front a crammed auditorium. Great job, Ricardo!
On the evening of the second day, another important work shop took place after the last session revolving around the newly assembled CHO genome. Amongst others the eCHO PIs Nicole Borth, Colin Clarke, Paula Meleady and the eCHO Scientific Advisory Board member Kelvin Lee presented updates of the new Chinese Hamster reference genome and results derived from sequencing efforts. Again, the high density of eCHO related speakers reflects the tremendous agglomeration of expertise within this Marie-Curie Actions project.
The two poster sessions on day two and three were one of many highlights during this conference, as it gave us ESRs the possibility to engage in discussions about our work with professionals from different fields. The interest in our projects was enormous and feedback was positive throughout. The chats showed us that our results are of high significance especially for industry which boosted our motivation to continue and pursue our goals even more excitedly.
The third day was dominated by bioprocess engineering talks, which provided us with useful insights into which process related requirements CHO cells have to suffice and how important a further improvement of the CHO cell factory is. After a relative short conference day (only 6.5 hours of science ;)), we had a marvelous outing via a ship cruise on Lake Geneva to the Olympic Museum of Lausanne. This gave us time to relax, talk and meet up with many colleagues. A sunny day with great food, great drinks and great science was perfectly completed with an ESR group picture.
The 4th day continued with the bioprocess engineering session and cell-based therapeutic approaches before Jamie Piret (University of British Columbia, Canada) gave an outstanding closing keynote lecture about CAR T-cells and their application in cancer treatment, which might be a great alternative to the production of anti-cancer mAbs. The lecture still resonates as it challenges, in partial, the current drug discovery paradigm for cancer. Yet, this exciting day and conference was not over as the gala dinner at the same evening had another surprise ready: Ricardo was chosen as a new ESACT Frontiers member out of 20 applicants and now proudly represents eCHO in this young professional ESACT network.
Altogether, the 25th ESACT meeting provided excellent science, great networking and exceptional outreach for eCHO systems. Of course, we will be there in Copenhagen 2019 as Mikael Rørdam Andersen is organizing the 26th meeting!
your eCHO ESRs.