What Can You Do to Increase Access to Gene & Cell Therapy?

Kenneth Cornetta, MD - September 09, 2022

Dr. Cornetta talks about the latest efforts of the Global Outreach Committee and encourages people in the field to spread the word.

Less than three years ago, ASGCT formed the Global Outreach Committee to address the daunting challenge of expanding knowledge and access to novel gene and cell therapies. That committee has since been the impetus for new programming and opportunities 

The committee's first order of business was listening to individuals from under-resourced areas to better understand their challenges. This led ASGCT to sponsor a series of half-day symposia with investigators from Brazil, South Africa, India, and Lebanon. With fellow committee members Martin Bonamino, Johnny Mahlangu, Federico Mingozzi, Savita Rangarajan, and current Committee Chair Jayandharan Rao, we recently published a review in Molecular Therapy on global access along with lessons learned from the first three symposia. People in upper-middle income countries we engaged with were dedicated to bringing novel therapies to those in need and to develop domestic manufacturing capacity. All the respective governments are investing in research, with a focus on their specific disease priorities.  

The committee noted the access challenge for people in low-income countries is even greater, based on limited infrastructure, medical literacy, and of course. cost. To address this, ASGCT has been working with Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania to create a certificate program called Introduction to Gene Therapy for Educators. Faculty at universities or medical schools in countries with low-income economies will participate in eight modules covering gene therapy methods, clinical trials, ethics, regulatory aspects, and the role of patient advocacy organizations. Our goal is for participants to attain the skills needed to add gene therapy to their curriculum and thereby inform the current and future generation of clinicians and scientists. This pilot program will be taught in October, with plans to expand to other regions in the near future. The committee also heard a request for assistance in developing the regulatory expertise to review clinical protocols and applications for licensed products. ASGCT is discussing how an education program focused on helping people in countries with lower- and middle-income economies would meet this need. 

What can you do? First, be an advocate. If you have contacts in under-resourced areas, let them know that the Society has developed economy-based membership rates. Keep them abreast of ASGCT Global Outreach educational programs, which have been provided without cost. Let ASGCT staff know if you would like to be involved with our educational or other activities, or volunteer for the Global Outreach Committee. Whenever you can, let policy makers, funding agencies, patient advocacy groups, and ASGCT know you support efforts to increase access to clinical trials and lower the cost of approved gene therapies in under-resources countries.  

Dr. Cornetta is a past chair and current member of the Global Outreach Committee, past ASGCT president, and professor of clinical medical & molecular genetics at Indiana University School of Medicine.