Is Belgium becoming a hub for gene therapy?
Gene therapy provides solutions to deadly diseases. Is the technology ready for a big breakthrough? The ´Science for health´ congress brings together global gene therapy pioneers and Belgian experts in Brussels on November 21 to take stock. A unique set of speakers and two debates will put the key challenges on the table: how do we ensure that patients have access to these life-saving therapies and is Belgium really becoming a hub for gene therapy?
Gene therapy is a promising new treatment for hereditary diseases caused by errors in our DNA, where the patient receives healthy or adapted genetic material.
For Science for Health 2022, MEDVIA and the event’s co-organizers have succeeded in bringing the pioneers of this technology to Belgium. Katherine High (USA, AskBio) and her team developed the very first treatment for an inherited eye disease in which people gradually lose their vision until they are completely blind. Bart Leroy (BE, UZGent) treats Belgian patients with this gene therapy to stop the deterioration process. Together with other experts, he will participate in the first roundtable discussion of the day: how can we make these new therapies more affordable? Not an easy discussion, especially as it also forces the speakers to think about what a human life is worth.
Monica Bennett (USA, Novartis) outlines the possibilities of gene therapy for neurological disorders: "You see the impact of these gene therapy treatments not only on the children, but their families too. So many lives are affected - it's really just miraculous."
Federico Mingozzi (USA, Sparks Therapeutics) zooms in on the challenges ahead for these therapies: proper delivery of the genetic material and large-scale production, for example. Product quality and purity are essential to avoiding serious side effects. As Belgium is committed to building a gene and cell therapy ecosystem, knowledge development and investment in production sites are indispensable. The afternoon debate focuses on our own challenges: can Belgium become the European hub for gene therapy?
Science for health takes place in Brussels (Square conference center) on November 21, 2022. Online participation is also possible. The full program can be found at: www.scienceforhealth.eu