Two weeks ago, six members of our Mammalian Cell Engineering Group (CHO Group) attended the ESACT UK Meeting 2018 organized in Leeds by ESACT-UK. ESACT-UK is a society which promotes the communication of knowledge and experience between scientists and engineers whose work has a direct or indirect bearing on cell culture biotechnology and the products derived from it. It was a great opportunity to present the work done we do at the NICB in the CHO cell field as all our members who attended the conference had been awarded a presentation slot in one of the sessions.
The Conference – Day 1
The scientific program of this year ESACT-UK meeting included sessions on Upstream & Downstream Processing, Early Career Researchers, Product Characterization and Analytics and Cell & Gene Therapy. The final session offered focuses on bringing new developments into the clinic (“Into the future & into the clinic”).
After an opening keynote session by Hitto Kaufmann, Sanofi’s Global Vice President Biopharmaceutics Development and Platform Innovation, about Sanofi and perspectives for the biopharmaceutical industry in the coming years, the first scientific session in upstream included talks on RNA-Seq approaches to better understand CHO cell biology, downscale-modelling of perfusion systems for continuous CHO cell culture, and continuous upstream process development.
The second scientific session focused on downstream processing. It included several talks on the development of novel reagents for affinity chromatography purification of proteins or how to address the downstream challenges of an atypical antibody. Following the talks, there was a series of 5 minutes’ poster flash presentations, which included two presentations from current NICB postgraduate students, Kevin Kellner and Berta Capella Roca.
Kevin is a final year Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr.Niall Barron. His research, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, focuses on the development of targeted approaches to manipulate miRNA expression in CHO cells. He presented his work on CHO cell engineering using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system to selectively knock-out miRNAs and improve cellular phenotypes.
Berta, who is currently halfway through her 3rd year of Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Martin Clynes and Dr. Padraig Doolan. Her research focuses on the development of new media formulations for CHO cell culture applications and is funded by Science Foundation Ireland. She presented her work on the development of a novel Chemically-Defined media for CHO cell culture.
The last scientific session of the day was dedicated to Early Career Researchers, an included a presentation by Alan Costello, the third member of the NICB crew to present at the conference.
Alan is a final year Ph.D. student under the supervision of Prof. Martin Clynes and Dr. Niall Barron. His research, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, covers different aspects of the manipulation of miRNAs in CHO cells in order to improve cellular phenotypes as well as the development of novel protein expression system. He presented his work on the development of a novel protein expression system based on circular RNA.
Other talks during the session included the development of a stable HIV-1 packaging cell line generated using an automated cell screening system, The development of a fully automated platform for the manufacture of stem cells for cell therapies, and a bioprocess engineering approach to control sialylation of recombinant antibodies.
The day was closed by the ESACT-UK Annual General Meeting.
The Gala Dinner – Networking and Casino
A particularly attractive feature of all ESACT related events is the importance of a dense social activities’ program and that was not an exception at this year ESACT-UK Meeting. The organizers planned a number of coffee break/networking sessions, in which the delegates were invited to play a game. Around the exhibition tables, certain oddities were hidden and had to be tracked. Those included old books, coins, chocolate roses and even a 3D printer slide-holder! Of course, the challenge was to find them all to opt for the prize!
However, the highlight of the social activities was the after-dinner casino session. Blackjack, roulette, and poker games were played after dinner with a price for the best better of the night! There are rumors that our NICB crew ended the night with a glass of champagne!
The Conference – Day 2
The second conference day started with a scientific session on product characterization and analytics. In this session speakers presented on advanced in-process product characterization, the use of novel neutron-based technologies for cell and product characterization and real-time metabolic activity tracking and adaptive process control techniques. The session was followed by a new series of poster flash presentations in which another NICB member, Laura Bryan, presented her work.
Laura is a second-year Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Dr. Paula Meleady, in collaboration with Eli Lilly. She presented her work on miRNA profiling of CHO cell lines and the development of HPLC- based platform for the high-throughput characterization of productivity phenotypes obtained by miRNA-decoy technology.
After lunch, the second scientific session on cell and gene therapy included talks on automated cell production of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), the use of MSCs to treat arthritic diseases and improved strategies for manufacturing of retroviral and lentiviral vectors for gene therapy. Following that, the poster flash presentation session included a talk by another NICB member, Ricardo Valdés-Bango Curell.
Ricardo (it’s me!) is a third-year Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Dr. Niall Barron as part of the Marie-Curie Innovative Training Network eCHO-Systems. My research focuses on the use of miRNA as metabolic sensors and engineering tools in CHO cells. He presented his work on the development of miRNA-based genetic switches for improved control of gene expression in CHO cells.
The closing scientific session focused on looking “into the future and into the clinic”. It included presentations on patient-focused approaches to the clinical development of gene therapies for rare diseases, the scalable production of proteins in plants and the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to improve biomanufacturing capacity. The last poster flash presentation included the presentation by Orla Coleman, the final NICB member presenting at the conference.
Orla is a final year Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr. Paula Meleady and Prof. Martin Clynes. Her research is focused on the development of a mass spectrometry-based method to explore the proteome of mammalian cells. She presented her work on the proteomic analysis of phenotype-improved miRNA-depleted CHO cell lines.
The meeting closed with the award ceremony, during which Alan Costello was awarded the “Best Early Career Researcher Talk” Congratulations!
Ricardo Valdés-Bango Curell
Marie-Curie PhD fellow at NICB, Dublin City University
My research focuses on the investigation of genetic switches, endogenous or exogenous, for controlled transgene expression in mammalian cells. My final aim is to develop potential applications of these in the biopharmaceutical industrial context. I am funded by an Early-Stage Researcher Marie Skłodowska-Curie action from the European Comission, as part of the Innovative Training Network eCHO-systems.