The American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) is a non-profit medical and professional organization that represents researchers and scientists devoted to the discovery of new genetic and cellular therapies. ASGCT was established in 1996 by Dr. George Stamatoyannopoulos, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, and a group of the country’s leading researchers in gene therapy. With over 1,800 members in the United States and worldwide, ASGCT is the largest association of individuals involved in genetic and cellular therapeutics.
“The field of gene and cell therapy is experiencing dramatic advances reflected in breakthrough clinical results obtained in a variety of pathologies, from eye diseases to blood disorders to cancer,” said Michel Sadelain, M.D., Ph.D., president of theAmerican Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT). ASGCT has supported cell and gene therapies from conception to clinical translation and is poised for growth. With 1,900 attendees, the 18th Annual Meeting held in May 2014 saw the highest attendance since 2006.
Despite emerging clinical success, cell and gene therapy researchers continue to face challenges to fund their research in a global context of stagnating or diminishing federal support for health research. As a 501(c)3 organization, ASGCT’s abilities to advocate and lobby for research funding are limited. Nonetheless, ASGCT strives to assist its members in obtaining funding by strategically working with patient advocacy foundations and other health research advocacy groups to communicate the importance of supporting cellular and genetic health research with Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
ASGCT has developed initiatives over the last several years to reach these governmental entities directly, including the organization of visits with the NIH directors, scientific programs to educate NIH leadership and FDA. ASGCT also supports programs aiming to advance standardization and harmonization of regulatory issues, clinical trial development and commercialization. For example, at its most recent Annual Meeting, ASGCT hosted the FDA and regulatory agencies from over ten different countries in a session aimed at discussing international regulatory issues surrounding biodistribution studies.
Reaching governmental personnel through education is one way ASGCT has established a relationship with Congress, the FDA and the NIH. ASGCT seeks to identify champions of the gene and cell therapy field with the anticipation that key opinion leaders and influential administrators will serve as advocates for health research funding related to gene and cell therapy.
Building a network of supporters and advocates of the gene and cell therapy field within government entities is one of many goals outlined in ASGCT’s recent strategic plan. Other strategic objectives are geared towards promoting the awareness, acceptance and appreciation of gene therapy and ASGCT. These include establishing an informative web presence for the community, supporting activities of other gene therapy societies, creating new educational programs for clinicians and basic researchers on the progress and development in the field, strengthening relationship with foundations and engaging the media. Through these objectives ASGCT aims to increase overall awareness and excitement surrounding the progress of the field, which will incentivize funding entities to provide more support to gene and cell therapy research.
As a new member of Research!America, ASGCT sees potential for Research!America to serve as ASGCT’s voice in helping to boost federal funding for health research. “Many individual members of ASGCT conduct research, either full or part-time, which largely depends on securing funding from NIH, NCI, DOD and other federal research programs. Cell and gene therapy holds great promise to alleviate human disease and warrants better support for basic and translational research,” said Sadelain.