Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am extremely excited to fully introduce myself as your new FACT President in this newsletter. It is truly an honor and privilege to serve in this capacity. For those of you who do not know me, I received my medical degree from the University of Otago, New Zealand and am Board Certified in Pediatrics and Adult/Pediatric Hematology. My background is in cell therapies for cancer and post-transplant viral infections. For the past 20 years, I have investigated the efficacy of virus and tumor specific T cells for the prophylaxis and treatment of viral infection after transplant and cancer respectively. I was formally the Director of the Pediatric Lymphoma program and the co-Director of the BMT QA Program at Texas Children’s Hospital / Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX). In 2013, I was recruited to head the new Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy (CETI) and The Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at Children’s National Hospital and The George Washington University (Washington, DC).
Taking over the President role from Dr. Dennis Gastineau as 2021 begins, and at a time that cell therapy is rapidly evolving and expanding to new applications, is extremely energizing for me. Since the inception of FACT, the scope of cell therapy has extended beyond its original application in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation to embrace diverse immune cell therapies and therapies using non-hematopoietic cells in the broad area of regenerative medicine. Technological advances have placed many of these treatments in the “mainstream” or at least within a reach of generalized application. Therefore, I see it as crucial that FACT continues to establish itself as the lead promoter for maintaining and improving the quality of all cell therapies through “peer-developed standards, education and accreditation for the benefit of patients”.
Hence, my vision is to ensure that the unique collaborative model FACT has established continues to be fostered and advanced as new cell therapeutics are developed and/or reach the marketplace. It is critical to support the translational and practical aspects of cell therapy in all its facets. I am therefore excited to work with the FACT community to promote the things that FACT does best to ensure that all cell therapies are administered with the highest quality standards to maximize patient safety. Specifically, as an ISCT Past President and a former Director at Large on the ASTCT (formerly ASBMT) Board, I look forward to continuing to foster FACT’s strong ties with its parent societies as well as enhancing collaborations with other key societies such as the Cord Blood Association (CBA) and the American Society for Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT). Further, I see the need to strengthen and initiate partnerships with international accreditation bodies as has been achieved already with our partner JACIE. I perceive that strong collaborations with regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be vital in the next 5-10 years as cell therapy moves far beyond the blood and marrow (BMT) model.
In closing, I would also like to take this opportunity to profoundly thank Dennis Gastineau for his dedication and commitment to FACT over his tenure. Thank you, Dennis, for all your hard work over this time and I look forward to continuing to work with you in your Past President role!
Finally, as a New Zealander who has worked in Australasia, Europe, South Africa, and the US, I hope I can provide, as your President, a genuine international perspective. I look forward to serving FACT and working with the entire FACT community to the very best of my ability.