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Organoids are Us 2019

“Organoids Are Us 2019” was a one-day symposium held at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) featuring research involving organoids. Organoid technologies have been a game changing advance to science and medicine that are the direct result of the discovery of Lgr5 as a cell-surface marker of adult stem cells in 2007 by the Clevers laboratory in the Netherlands (Barker et al., Nature 449:1003 with >2600 citations). The Clevers lab then went on to demonstrate that these tissue-restricted adult stem cells can be coerced into forming mini-replicas of tissues, termed “organoids”, meaning “organ-like” (Sato et al., Nature 2009 459:262 with >2000 citations). Organoids can be readily manipulated, genetically or pharmacologically, to understand what makes a stem cell be a stem cell, and what changes occur in a normal stem cell to make them become cancer cells.

This symposium followed on from the first Organoids Are Us one-day symposium held at the Doherty Institute in 2018. International (Tokameh Mahmoudi, Erasmus MC, The Netherlands), interstate (Susan Woods, SAHMRI, Adelaide, SA) and local researchers, clinicians and medical scientists using organoids delivered talks on advances in stem cell and cancer biology, bioengineering, diagnostics and public health; and, the new frontier for organoid technology, modelling infectious disease.

Organoids can be established from patient tumours for anti-cancer drug pre-screening. The response of the tumour organoids to drug treatment matches the response of the patient to therapy. Thus, we can truly personalise therapy and avoid unnecessary treatment and several presentations provided striking examples of the power of this technology. Rob Ramsay (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) demonstrated the utility of organoids in understanding immune response to tumour cells. Susan Woods presented work on gastric cancer organoids and on collaborative (with the Ramsay group) personalised medicine approaches. Fred Hollande (University of Melbourne) discussed challenges surrounding metastatic CRC and research on chemo-naïve and chemo-treated tumour-derived organoids. Peter Gibbs (joint division head of Personalised Oncology, WEHI) provided an update on Australia’s advances to introducing “organoid” testing to pre-screen a patient’s response to anti-cancer drugs. Ron Firestein (Hudson Institute) presented genetic and drug screen initiatives on paediatric cancers.

Tokameh Mahmoudi’s and the Clevers’ teams have established novel models of natural infection of liver and lung organoids. Tokameh Mahmoudi (Erasmus MC) demonstrated how these will advance our understanding of pathogen entry and the control or prevention of infection. She also presented work on early markers of liver cancer. Dena Lyras (Monash University) presented work on organoids derived from intestinal tissue infected with clostridium difficile. The symposium finished with presentations on new and emerging technologies, including examples of matrix engineering from Andrea O’Conner (University of Melbourne) and 3D bioprinting and high-throughput imaging from Kaylene Simpson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre).

The symposium was attended by 190 delegates from diverse backgrounds and was generously supported by Scientifix, Corning, STEMCELL Technologies, RastrumInventia, Geneworks, TrendBio, GE Health, the Centre for Stem Cell Systems and the ARC Centre for Personalised Therapeutics Technologies (University of Melbourne). Huge thanks to all at WEHI, especially Jaci Hoysted, Amanda Voudouris and Sabine Kelly; and Jean Moselen and Bang Tran (Vincan laboratory, Doherty Institute) for their invaluable help with organising this event. Planning for Organoids Are Us 2020 is underway with a “save the date” announcement coming later this year. Most importantly, the organisers, Maree Faux (WEHI) and Elizabeth Vincan (Doherty) extend their thanks to all the delegates, especially those who travelled overseas and interstate for this one day symposium. We look forward to seeing you all in 2020.

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