On 23rd June 2017, Newcastle University welcomed some of the top names in immunology immune modulation from around the world, to attend the Newcastle International Therapeutic Tolerance workshop this June. This meeting was the fourth in the series, entitled – ‘First-in-Human-Data’.
Occurring every four years, this event was established in 2005 by Professor of Clinical Rheumatology and NIHR Newcastle BRC Musculoskeletal Theme Lead, John Isaacs.
The aim of establishing the three-day, global workshop was to bring together researchers working in the field of immunology and immune modulation, who believe it is possible to ‘re-set’ the immune system in human autoimmunity and transplantation. Therapies have become well-established in pre-clinical models, but many felt it would not be possible to translate the pre-clinical data into patients. Professor Isaacs initiated these workshops because of his belief that human autoimmunity can be cured, and his ambition to be at the forefront of such work. In the 12 years since the first workshop there has been highly significant progress in the development of therapies that could change the lives of people living with a range of autoimmune conditions. Similar approaches could enable organ transplantation without a requirement for long-term immune suppression.
The commitment to translating scientific discoveries into patient benefit is one of the core aims of the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. Led by Professor John Isaacs, the Musculoskeletal Disease research theme works alongside the national and international research community in this field, industry colleagues and patients and public, who provide invaluable input into the best methods to turn ground-breaking scientific discoveries into therapies in the NHS. Global meetings of this kind facilitate and accelerate the process by providing a platform for collaboration and relationship building.
Global research in autoimmunity
Since the first of these global meetings in 2005, there has been significant progress made;
- The first meeting (Therapeutic Tolerance – Myth or Reality?) asked whether tolerogenic therapies were ever likely to play an important role in transplantation and autoimmunity.
- By the second meeting in 2009 (Therapeutic Tolerance – Closer to Reality?) attendees were able to report on promising developments including the advent of cellular therapies to reprogram dysregulated immune systems.
- At the third meeting in 2012, we heard of prospective trials of therapies ranging from peptides to cellular therapies. And so, it was with some excitement that delegates gathered last week to hear the results of those trials at this year’s meeting on ‘First-in-Human Data’.
The most recent meeting, which gathered the largest numbers of attendees so far, shared exciting data on the first studies in patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, transplant patients and patients with MS and diabetes.
Combining expertise across the NIHR
As well as welcoming colleagues in this area from around the world, the meeting highlighted other areas of translational research expertise from within the NIHR Newcastle BRC.
On day two, Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, NIHR Newcastle BRC Skin and Oral Disease Research theme lead, delivered a lecture on the therapeutic implications of the new dendritic cell taxonomy. Her connection to the event highlights the synergies from within the BRC and demonstrates the value of the collaborative nature of the research themes and how these will come together over the next five years to meet the scientific objectives of the Newcastle BRC.