Press Release (ePRNews.com) - SAN DIEGO - Oct 01, 2020 - This year’s annual Oligo Meeting was tremendously successful, with over 1,000 people representing 29 countries in attendance. The annual meeting brings together oligonucleotide experts from all over the world for cross-disciplinary exchange, fostering the development of ground-breaking new ideas. Areas of expertise span from chemistry and delivery to biology, immunology, and clinical medicine. Although unable to meet in person, moving the annual meeting to a virtual platform this year afforded an excellent opportunity for sharing the impressive work being done in our field.
A highlight of this years’ meeting was the announcement of two Lifetime Achievement Award winners, Dr. Ryszard Kole and Dr. Frank Bennett. The Award Committee felt it was fitting to have these individuals as a “double bill” since both made important contributions to basic science and were also instrumental in the development of antisense oligonucleotide drugs that modulate splicing to correct severe genetic disease.
Dr. Ryszard Kole is the founder of Ercole Biotech and a consultant to Sarepta. His activities span the gamut from biochemical assays, cell culture and animal studies, to clinical trials and methods of oligonucleotide delivery and improvements in oligonucleotide chemistry. Dr. Kole’s primary discovery was that pre-mRNA splicing provided a novel target for sequence-specific therapies of severe disorders such as thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, DMD, cancer, and inflammatory and metabolic disorders. It also represented a novel technology of oligonucleotide induced modulation of pre-mRNA splicing and exon skipping. [Dominski & Kole (1993) PMID: 8378346]. His approach has huge therapeutic potential since over 90% of human genes produce alternatively spliced mRNA and about 50% of genetic disorders are caused by errors in pre-mRNA splicing. Sarepta’s breakthrough drug for DMD, Exondys 51, is a direct result of Dr. Kole’s pioneering discoveries in oligonucleotide-induced modulation of pre-mRNA splicing.
Dr. Frank Bennett is the executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Ionis Pharmaceuticals and one of the founding members of the company. He is responsible for continuing to advance antisense technology and expanding the Ionis drug discovery platform. He has been involved in developing antisense oligonucleotides as therapeutic agents, including research on the application of oligonucleotides for inflammatory, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, oligonucleotide delivery, pharmacokinetics, and medicinal chemistry. An inventor on more than 175 issued patents, Dr. Bennett has also published more than 230 papers in the field of antisense research and development.
Dr. Bennett is a co-recipient of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his contributions to the discovery and development of SPINRAZA® (nusinersen) and a co-recipient of the inaugural Healey Center International Prize for Innovation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Dr. Bennett also received the 2018 Hereditary Disease Foundation’s (HDF) Leslie Gehry Brenner Prize for Innovation in Science for his leadership and continued commitment to developing antisense therapies for Huntington’s disease (HD).
OTS plans to host an in-person event from Sept. 26-29, 2021, in Montreal, QC, Canada, taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our attendees. Given the inability to meet in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OTS will bestow these two Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2021, at which time Dr. Kole and Dr. Bennett will also give their award lectures. The OTS community looks forward to celebrating Dr. Kole and Dr. Bennett next year.
The Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society (OTS) is an open, nonprofit forum to foster research and development of oligonucleotide therapeutics. The Founders’ vision was to bring together the expertise from different angles of oligonucleotide research to create synergies and to bring the field of oligonucleotides to its full therapeutic potential. A new era of oligonucleotide drugs was envisioned that would change the landscape of therapeutic modalities.
Oligonucleotide therapeutics are now being used to successfully treat diseases and have the potential for widespread application. Over 100 treatments are in development for common conditions, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as rare diseases. Incredibly, oligonucleotide therapeutics have also been used to create an individualized treatment for one single person with a rare, fatal disease.
For more information about the Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society, current science, or the 2021 Oligo Meeting, visit https://www.oligotherapeutics.org
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