RESTORE at the European Parliament in Brussels

On Monday 5th December, RESTORE members and supporters attended a lunchtime meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels to speak about Advanced Therapies. The debate, organised by RESTORE and hosted by MEP Dr Christian Ehler, highlighted the staggering and increasing health costs imposed by chronic diseases in Europe, which has both economic and societal impact. Prof Hans-Dieter Volk (BCRT, Charité) cautioned that, whilst Advanced Therapies are already a reality, huge barriers remain to their sustainable and widespread distribution across Europe.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, Advanced Therapies hold real promises as curative treatments for chronic diseases and with the concerted action of RESTORE, its supporters, and the backing of EU initiatives the goal of affordable and accessible Advanced Therapies for everyone in Europe becomes ever more achievable. A key aim of RESTORE is to generate a sustainable ecosystem combining all aspects of Advanced Therapeutic development to accelerate innovation at scientific, technical, logistical and economic levels. Guillaume Fusai (responsible for EU affairs at INSERM) acknowledged the importance of RESTORE in generating such a hub, which combines industry, hospitals and research to advance and fast-track the translation of basic research to the clinic.

The pharmaceutical industry has recognised the new challenges and opportunities of Advanced Therapies noted Ivana Cattaneo (Public Affairs Director for the European Region, Novartis Oncology), adding that “All along the whole trajectory from discovery to access, there is a need for all stakeholders to engage and collaborate in a different way.” Zami Aberman (executive chairperson of the Israeli company, Pluristem) suggested that emerging technologies “have the potential to significantly impact Europe’s ecosystem by providing cost-effective therapies to many unmet medical conditions and generate advanced research centres and biopharma companies that will use advance tools such as AI and machine learning to improve patients’ health while reducing costs for healthcare systems.”

During these discussions, it is important not to forget the patients, the people for whom these therapies can transform their lives. Prof Petra Reinke (BeCAT, Charité) presented the potential of regulatory T cell (Treg) therapies to change the lives of transplant patients by reshaping the immune balance. The current norm after transplantation is a regimen of 20-30 pills a day, every day for the rest of your life. The debate heard directly from one of the first patients to ever receive Treg therapy about just how life changing these Advanced Therapies can be, “I take just one pill per day and am now able to lead a pretty much normal life.” Karolina Hanslik from the European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS) highlighted that there is hope for new treatment options, and possible cures, for people living with rare diseases. Since there are numerous challenges to bringing the Advanced Therapies to the patients, the rare diseases’ community expects to be supported by European institutions, national governments, researchers, clinicians and the initiatives such as RESTORE to have access to the most effective, innovative treatments.

The mission of RESTORE is not just to raise awareness of the hurdles standing in the way of Advanced Therapies, but also to provide potential solutions to overcome them. In this regard, the RESTORE position paper (which can be read here) outlines recommendations to the EU and to all those involved in Advanced Therapy research for ensuring the future of accessible and affordable Advanced Therapeutics too all those in need.