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Summary of Fraunhofer Seminar "Models of Lung Disease" 2017

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM
© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM
© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

On January 19 and 20, 2017, the 16th Fraunhofer seminar “Models of Lung Disease” was held in the Clinical Research Center (CRC) Hannover. It was organized once again by Fraunhofer ITEM in cooperation with the German Center for Lung Research (DZL). With over 130 people from 15 countries, this year’s seminar was booked out. Renowned international experts in translational lung research from industry and academia got together for the 16th time to discuss new developments in experimental lung research and compare different models and approaches. The program was finalized by several guided tours offered by Fraunhofer ITEM to a variety of its non-clinical and clinical departments.

Different disease areas, including asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and lung infection and exacerbation, were addressed in selected presentations. Different phases of research were covered: from basic research via preclinical models to early-phase clinical trials. The focus was on the exact mechanisms of pathogenesis and disease progression. Furthermore, methodological aspects such as imaging and biomarker development were also included. During the poster session, participants in addition had the opportunity to discuss the 20 exhibited scientific posters with the authors.

 

The great relevance of experimental lung research

Lung diseases such as asthma, COPD, lung infection, fibrosis, and tumors are major health problems in Western societies. Translational research aims to develop a better understanding of the disease mechanism in order to implement predictive disease models. Such models are the essential prerequisite for the development of new therapies. Presen­tations of translational research projects, which form the link between preclinical development and clinical research, and lectures from a broad diversity of other disciplines formed a platform enabling insights into different mechanisms of lung diseases and triggering discussions about possible therapeutic approaches.

Fraunhofer ITEM division director and main organizer of the workshop, Armin Braun (Fraunhofer ITEM; see photo), gave a warm welcome to 22 speakers, 11 exhibitors and all other the participants. He underlined the international importance of translational research in the area of lung diseases and thus was pleased to host a workshop with 33 percent international and 67 percent German participants.

 

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM
© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM
© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

Translational research in models of asthma and fibrosis

Asthma is a complex disease with marked heterogeneity in the clinical course and in the response to treatment. Several presentations during the two-day seminar were dedicated to new developments in this research area. Ramaswamy Krishnan (Harvard/Boston, US; see photo), for example, outlined the importance of screening in bronchodilator drug discovery. He argued that drug screening can be improved to ensure the best possible treatment options.

Maria Belvisi (London, UK; see photo below) talked about targeting TRP receptors for treatment of lung disease. In this research area, there is an urgent need to develop therapies, for example targeting the sensory afferent arm of the reflex which initiates the cough reflex.

Models of lung fibrosis were another thematic focus, for example, in the lecture given by Antje Prasse of Fraunhofer ITEM. She talked about bronchosphere generation as a disease model for drug testing – a recapitulation of embryogenesis.

Predictive in-vitro and animal models are of vital importance in translational research. Matt Thomas (AstraZeneca, Sweden) dedicated his talk to such models and discussed modeling of the fibrotic mechanism in rodents vs. humans.

 

From lung infections and exacerbations to COPD

Mübeccel Akdis (Davos, Switzerland) presented the results of her research on human rhinovirus infections and the breaking of immune tolerance. Jens Hohlfeld (Fraunhofer ITEM; see photo below) talked about the safety and efficacy of human rhinovirus-16 in healthy volunteers and patients with asthma on inhaled steroids.

Another thematic focus was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).In the COPD session, Gerry Wagenaar (Leiden, Netherlands) discussed novel treatment options for bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Edith Hessel (GSK, UK) gave detailed insights about innovative medicines for treating uncontrolled respiratory diseases with PI3kdelta inhibitors. Among these is a syndrome called Activation of PI3K-delta Syndrome, caused by over-activity of PI3K-delta and manifesting itself as recurrent infections in the lung. It leads to both bronchiectasis and COPD-like changes in the lung and results in life-threatening conditions for the patient.

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM
© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

Poster session, product exhibition, and guided tours

During the whole two-day seminar, attendants were invited to visit the accompanying product exhibition, where manuf­acturers of laboratory equipment gave practical demon­strations of airway research. The available exhibition space was fully booked during this year’s seminar. Coffee breaks between lectures and a special poster session were the right spot for participants to gain further insights from the exhibited scientific posters and to engage in inspiring conversations.

The program was finalized by three guided tours. Small groups of participants thus got the opportunity to gain insights into lung function testing, were allowed to take a closer look at precision-cut lung slices as a model of lung disease, and visited the institute’s cutting-edge clinical airway research facilities and equipment in the CRC Hannover.

 

Conclusion

The Fraunhofer seminar “Models of Lung Disease” 2017 once again provided superb exchange and networking opportunities between academia and industry. Participants were most satisfied with the excellent faculty, the mix of local and international contributions, and the balance of industry and university speakers. Several participants underlined “the high quality and diversity of the lectures.”

One of the attendees praised “good breaks to encourage face-to-face discussions” – an aspect mentioned by quite a few visitors. The size and schedule of the event, with time for conversations and allowing the audience to concentrate on each lecture throughout the two-day program, were pointed out as especially positive.

All in all, a Fraunhofer seminar likely to be remembered and to make participants want to return to Hannover for the next Fraunhofer seminar “Models of Lung Disease” in January 2018.