On 27 NOV 2017, GAiT interviewed Prof Johan Hyllner as he retired as GAiT Director.
The following is a transcript of that interview:
GAiT: Why did you decide the setting up of GAiT was an useful enterprise and become one of the Founding Directors?
JH: I have always been very enthusiastic about cell therapies using pluripotent cells. The basis for this view is the potential for allogeneic therapies and also the good chance of getting a high number of cells from this raw material. In allogeneic cell therapies there is now evidence of immune challenges following transplantation of the cells. Obviously, matching the induced Pluripotent Stem (iPSC) cells with some of the patients’ major HLA types, could significantly reduce associated risk.
By collecting cells from homozygous HLA donor cell types, it is now possible to make HLA compatible stems cells and other immune matched cells for the patient. If these therapies are successful, in order to cover most of humanity, we need a global haplobank network for such cells. Individual countries will really struggle to independently develop these therapies for their general populations – by collaborating with several other countries, you can cover a much bigger part of your patient population. The benefits of this collaboration are what drove all the Founding Directors, me included.
GAiT: What advice would you give people joining/directing GAiT in the future?
JH: It is essential that GAiT maintains a high standard of quality – it needs a high standard of thinking and engagement for the organisation to do well.
GAiT: What do you want GAiT to ultimately grow into?
JH: That will depend on the individual members of GAiT. I would like to see GAiT to continue as a non-profit organisation that, through its focus, expertise, and transparency, can work effectively with Academia, Governments, and Industry. We must coordinate and facilitate the use of the different haplobanks in different territories for patient benefit.
GAiT: Are you going to assist in GAiT activities in the future?
JH: I may be stepping down from the Board of Directors, but as I remain enthusiastic about GAiT’s mission, so I will act informally as an assistant or ambassador for GAiT – particularly around Europe – introducing others to GAiT’s mission, thereby growing this important community of experts. I am in contact with the relevant Swedish nationals regularly, and have introduced several Spanish experts to GAiT recently. I will still be working in the UK, so I will still be in the middle of things.
GAiT: How can people stay in contact with you?
JH: I will still be at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, and will keep my Catapult email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for sometime yet. But for non-Catapult business, I can be reached at my Gmail account (Johan.Hyllner@gmail.com).
We thank Prof Hyllner for his efforts in establishing GAiT, as one of its Founding Directors, and for his future efforts to grow the GAiT community.