“Building on genuine collaboration”: The first GENEGUT General Assembly in Cork, IE

Last week, 30 consortium members of 9 project partners from 8 countries gathered for one day to hold the first GENEGUT General Assembly at the School of Pharmacy, University College Cork, Ireland. These are the highlights from the first in-person meeting.

“It has been one and a half years since we started the grant application – where GENEGUT began – to our first General Assembly now. And today we finally get to be together in person, here, in Cork”, with this, GENEGUT coordinator Prof. Caitriona O’Driscoll opened the meeting. The full-day general assembly, planned as a meeting to cover all GENEGUT relevant points – from science, to management and communications, offered the first opportunity for all project partners to discuss GENEGUT in all its aspects – on-site, in person.

Alongside the project coordinator, UCC Vice President of Research Prof. John Cryan opened the meeting and highlighted the importance of genuine collaborative work and clarity in communication and engagement, before handing over to the leaders of the scientific work packages, presenting their progress, challenges and next steps.  

Work package presentations: plans and progress

WP1: Synthesis, formulation and characterisation of
therapeutic RNA-based nanoparticles (Caitriona O’Driscoll, Piotr Kowalski, UCC; Milo Malanga, CarboHyde)

  • Synthesis of biomaterials
  • Development of library of cyclodextrin based biomaterials 

WP2: Cellular specificity and mechanism (Per Artursson, Madlen Hubert, UU)

  • Development of organoids
  • Focus on function and ADME factors 

WP 3: Formulation development for regional specificity (Vincent Jannin, Elisa Millet, Lonza; Joey O’Shea, Brendan Griffin, UCC)

  • Development of capsule-based system for regional delivery to terminal ileum 
  • Regulatory compliance, scalability, manufacturing factors

WP4: Proof of efficacy under diseased conditions (Silvia Melgar, UCC / APC; Bruno Sarmento, i3S; Patrick O’Dwyer, UCC)

  • Pre-clinical assessment of efficacy
  • Development of PBBM model 
  • Validation of pig model, proof of efficacy in 3D multi-cellular model

Closing the work package session, Jeanette Müller and Jamuna Siehler (accelCH) covered WP6 (communication, dissemination, exploitation) and WP7 (management). Besides presenting the tools and means to ensuring smooth project management and reporting to the European Commission, the WP7 leads also introduced effective approaches to successful innovation management. Finally, with an interactive group activity, the consortium brainstormed on communication activities to reach the GENEGUT stakeholders – from patient to policy maker.

The afternoon was dedicated to discussing some of the key methods and techniques used in the different scientific work packages. Spanning from the design of biomaterials to Physiologically Based Biopharmaceutics Modelling (PBBM), the afternoon enabled the consortium to extensively discuss core aspects of their (early) project work, ensuring a streamlined approach and exchange within and between work packages.

Welcoming new GENEGUT members

The consortium was honored to welcome Prof. René Holm (SDU), who, alongside Dr. Katie Whitehead (CMU) and Dr. Ena Prosser (FHP), is one of the members of the GENEGUT scientific advisory board. With his extensive background in pharmaceutical drug development and oral delivery, he was able to offer valuable input, relevant for the many tasks of the challenging GENEGUT work plan.

Furthermore, the General Assembly also presented a great opportunity to welcome the newly onboarded PhD candidates that are already starting their work on GENEGUT:

Ana Francisca Soares
Miguel Ramoa
Sophia Hoffmann
Aman Saifi
Klara Martinovic
Elisa Millet

Ending the day with a joint dinner and Irish music at UCC’s Aula Max, the consortium members had the chance to engage in some long-awaited networking – and discussing potential upcoming in-person meeting destinations. Where to? Find out soon…

Thank you to UCC’s School of Pharmacy for organising and hosting this successful  first General Assembly. Thank you to all GENEGUT project partners for attending and enriching the meeting with thoroughly well-prepared presentations and discussions.