2020 COP&S conference coordinated by VISICORT PI Dr Bertrand Fabres slated for November 12 & 13th

COP&S meeting, November 12th & 13th, 2020 in Tours

The COrnée Practique & Scientifique (COP & S) meeting for ophthalmologists involved in cornea practice, and eye banking, will take place on November 12th and 13th, 2020 in Tours, France. The meeting consists of lectures, panel discussions, surgical videos, and satellite symposia.

The two-day meeting is being co-coordinated by VISICORT PI Dr Bertrand Fabres based at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nantes of INSERM. On the second day, Dr Fabres will moderate a session titled: Corneal transplant, a story of donor-recipient encounter 1. During this session, he will present “Deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty.”

See the here for the preliminary programme.

VISICORT presented at Ophthalmology changing event, Berlin

On Saturday, August 15, 2020, in Berlin, a simultaneous face-to-face and virtual event occurred which involved 300 ophthalmologists! Hosted by the Eye Clinic at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the theme of the event was Ophthalmology changing. The face-to-face portion of the event took place at the STATION Berlin conference centre.

In the second session of the one-day event, VISICORT was presented and acknowledged by private lecturer Dr Tina Dietrich during her talk entitled: “Update transplant immunology – implication for perforating keratoplasty DMEK”. VISICORT PI Prof Dr Uwe Pleyer presented “Therapy of Immune-Mediated Diseases: From Steroid to Biological” and also chaired the third session of the day.

Read the entire detailed programme here.


National Eye Research Centre, U.K. funds VISICORT exploitation research

VISICORT PIs Professors Malcolm Walkinshaw (University of Edinburgh) and Conor Murphy (RCSI, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) and Dr Karl Burgess and Lisa Imrie were recently awarded funding (£66,500) from the National Eye Research Centre (U.K.), (NERC) for the research project: A Multi-omics approach to eye tissue characterisation in Keratoconus & Fuch’s Dystrophy patients. Congratulations to the team and in particular to Lisa who has pioneered the use of a multi-omics approach in analysing eye tissues.

The fully-funded PhD project will examine two common conditions affecting the cornea – keratoconus and Fuch’s endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD). Lisa, a proteomics specialist will identify families of proteins, lipids, and metabolites (“multi-omics”) using mass spectrometry – an instrumental method looking at the chemical composition of substances. Analysing different eye tissue samples from the same patient at different time points will allow for a better understanding of how these diseases develop and progress. The research will benefit from access to a collection of more than 3000 biosamples from people with either keratoconus or FECD that have been enrolled in the VISICORT cross-sectional analysis study, where the different eye tissues have been stored and linked to a clinical database with detailed information about each patient.

“It is really gratifying to see how the VISICORT project has led to the development of a new and exciting approach for analysing the invaluable collection of our biological samples. We can look forward to being able to identify important new and medically important biomarkers from Lisa’s VISICORT-inspired PhD.”

Professor Malcolm Walkinshaw, University of Edinburgh

The 3-year project will also draw upon the VISICORT network of clinical and scientific experts in the field of corneal disease. This work will identify signalling and metabolic pathways that are clearly implicated in keratoconus and FECD disease aetiology. Lisa aims to get started on October 1, 2020.

NERC, the National Eye Research Centre (https://www.nercuk.org/) is a charitable incorporated organisation and community of donors, volunteers, researchers, healthcare professionals, and fundraisers working together towards a common goal of beating sight loss forever. They fund pioneering research into the causes of eye disease to develop better prevention methods and more effective treatments for children and adults. NERC has been able to invest over £17 million in research projects that are bringing scientists ever closer to answering some of the most fundamental questions about eye health and eye disease.

VISICORT PI Prof Sophie Brouard wins prestigious CNRS 2020 Innovation Medal

Sophie Brouard: finding industrial applications for innovations against graft rejection

Sophie Brouard est lauréate de la médaille de l’Innovation du CNRS 2020. Directrice de recherche au Centre de recherche en transplantation et immunologie (CRTI, INSERM/CHU de Nantes/Université de Nantes/ITUN).

Since 2011, the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) Innovation Medal rewards figures whose exceptional research work has led to groundbreaking innovation in the technological, economic, therapeutic, and social fields. Our PI Professor Sophie Brouard, of INSERM was one of four 2020 recipients. The career paths of CNRS 2020 Innovation medallists illustrate the quality, variety, and wealth of research conducted at the CNRS, as well as the different ways of finding applications for it. “Scientists who wish to transfer their results to the broader social and business world can now rely on a wide range of support mechanisms set up by the CNRS in recent years,” points out the organisation’s Deputy CEO for Innovation Jean Luc Moullet. The four 2020 medallists are also proof that research, however basic, can lead to the emergence of companies and enable transfers towards the business world.

A veterinarian by training, Sophie Brouard gradually became interested in the problem of graft rejection in kidney and lung transplants. She currently serves as a CNRS research professor at the CRTI (Centre de recherche en transplantation et immunologie – Université de Nantes/Inserm/ITUN/CHU de Nantes), and focuses on alleviating the burden of heavy anti-rejection treatments, which cause numerous side effects. “With my medical and veterinary training, I have always needed to know what applications my research will find,” she stresses. It was originally while looking at the few kidney transplant patients who could forgo treatment that she revealed the B-lymphocyte regulation phenomena and explored the mechanisms through which it occurs, with a view to a possible therapy. Part of her research is also dedicated to identifying biomarkers to evaluate, predict, and diagnose the risk of kidney or lung graft rejection, in an effort to better anticipate and adapt treatments. With her knowledge of the needs of industry and technology transfer players, she has used her work to meet the needs of companies. With 163 scientific publications and 13 patents under her belt, she believes it is important to emphasise that “research is conducted by a team“. In partnership with academic colleagues, she has launched two start-ups, TcLand Expression and Effimune, which became OSE Immunotherapeutics, to develop therapeutic tools in various research fields related to cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Read the full press release from CNRS here.

Galway researchers publish work in Molecular Therapy

Congratulations to the National University of Ireland Galway and Orbsen Therapeutics team of Kevin Lynch, Oliver Treacy, Xizhe Chen, Nick Murphy, Paul Lohan, Md Nahidul Islam, Ellen Donohoe, Matthew D. Griffin, Luke Watson, Steven McLoughlin, Grace O’Malley, Aideen E. Ryan and Thomas Ritter! Their paper: TGF-b1-Licensed Murine MSCs Show Superior Therapeutic Efficacy in Modulating Corneal Allograft Immune Rejection In Vivo was published in the journal Molecular Therapy, on the 29th of May 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymthe.2020.05.023 Download the pdf here.

This was the 24th VISICORT-acknowledged publication. View the entire list here. Also, follow VISICORT on Research Gate.

Three new papers attributed to VISICORT!

VISICORT Coordinator Prof Matthew Griffin of the National University of Ireland Galway has recently published three papers acknowledging VISICORT work and funding:

  • Fazekas B and Griffin MD. “Mesenchymal stromal cell-based therapies for acute kidney injury: Progress in the last decade”, Kidney International, In Press, 2020 (Review). 28 January 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2019.12.019 Pre-proof available here
  • Swaminathan S and Griffin MD. Editorial: “Innovative biologics and drugs to target renal inflammation”, Frontiers Renal Pharmacol, In Press, 2020  DOI: 10.3389/fphar.2020.00038 Read the full article here.
  • Negi N and Griffin MD. “Effects of mesenchymal stromal cells on regulatory T cells: Current understanding and clinical relevance”. Stem Cells, In Press, 29 January 2020 (Review). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/stem.3151  Download the pdf here.

Congratulations to Matt and his international colleagues!

Read the growing list of VISICORT publications here: http://visicort.eu/project-2/publications/

VISICORT meeting with Epimune Diagnostics


Epimune (www.epimune-dx.com) and the VISICORT Consortium are interested in entering into a collaboration in the field of diagnosis and monitoring of corneal transplant recipients using epigenetic immune cell quantification. The goal of the collaboration is the exploration of epigenetic immune cell quantification to monitor patients after corneal transplantation and to detect (and potentially predict) adverse events earlier than with currently available methods.

The face to face meeting on Tuesday 10th October 2019 with Dr Christoph Sachsenmeier from Epimune Diagnostics was an opportunity to discuss the collaboration further and to explore new collaborations within the diabetic kidney and ophthalmology research areas.

Pictured L to R: Matt Griffin, Conor Murphy, Joan Ní Gabhann, Christoph Sachsenmeier and Diana Malata at the RCSI, Dublin

Attendees included VISICORT Coordinator Prof. Matt Griffin and Dr Siobhán Gaughan from NUI Galway, VISICORT team members from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland PI Prof. Conor Murphy, Dr Joan Ní Gabhann and Diana Malata of the RCSI, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Dr Christoph Sachsenmeier, the VP Business Development at Epimune.

Epimune’s goal is to revolutionize diagnosis and monitoring of patients with disorders of the immune system.  Epimune develops in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests using proprietary epigenetic immune cell quantification technology (Baron et al., 2018). This approach allows for broad immune cell profiling from minute sample amounts (e.g. blood – fresh/frozen/dried; other bodily fluids; tissue). Epimune uses proprietary real-time PCR-based assays for quantification of more than 20 different immune cell types.

VISICORT clinical trial listed on Charité’s BeCAT website

“An outstanding project within the VISICORT consortium is a Phase 1B clinical trial testing the safety and feasibility of intravenously administered allogeneic mesenchymal stromal cells (allo-MSC) as an immunotherapy for patients at high risk of keratoplasty. Following recent regulatory and ethical approval for the first clinical study on the risk therapy for cell therapy in risk keratoplasty, the inclusion of the first patients is imminent.”

VISICORT’s clinical trial is listed on the BeCAT web page. BeCAT, the Berlin Center for Advanced Therapy is Charité’s an amalgamation of cross-disciplinary project teams that develop and manufacture Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMP) for somatic cell therapeutics, gene therapeutics, and tissue engineering biotechnological tissue. Read about BeCAT and VISICORT (in German and English) here.

VISICORT PI Ritter, NUI Galway joins Therapeutics Delivery COST Action

Prof. Thomas Ritter of NUI Galway has joined “DARTER”- a COST Action CA 17103- Delivery of Antisense RNA Therapeutics. Here, Thomas aims to broaden his research network and to forge new partnerships to explore novel, RNA-based therapies for the treatment of ocular defects and the modulation of corneal transplant rejection.

DARTER has three research objectives- delivery strategies, model systems, safety and toxicology. In addition, there is a capacity-building group for stakeholder communications with the objective to achieve consensus on protocols and assessment of ASO delivery and toxicology and training new researchers within a cooperative research framework. The DARTER COST network includes academics, industrial partners, patient representatives and clinicians and it is open to other interested stakeholders.

COST Actions create spaces where scientists are in the driving seat (bottom-up) and ideas can grow through a flexible and open approach. By enabling researchers from academia, industry and the public and private sector to work together in open networks that transcend borders, COST helps to advance science, stimulates knowledge sharing and pools resources.