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From Lab to Clinic: 7th PhD training course in Vienna a success

a man presenting to a classroom of people

Dr. Joan Joseph from Fundació Privada Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica (FCRB) and Prof. Brita Wahren from the Karolinska Institutet have recently returned from the hugely successful 7th PhD training course, “From Lab to Clinic”. It was held 7-10 April 2019 in Vienna and hosted by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Vienna) and Polymun Scientific GmbH (Klosterneuburg). The training course was part of the continuing education and training program in HIV vaccine design and development. The program has a focussed aim to improve and disseminate advanced research skills developed within EAVI2020.

While mainly PhD students, the group also welcomed bachelor students, laboratory technicians, post-docs, and technical and faculty staff from Polymun and the department of Biotechnology of University of Life Sciences. This diversity brought many perspectives and expertise to the highly engaging discussions. Among many other topics, the group focussed on:

  • Vaccine production;
  • From University to Industry: successful start-ups;
  • GMP production of a vaccine candidate explained on the example of MSIP528; and
  • Initiating clinical trials: preparation of Investigator’s brochure, regulatory issues and clinical trial application

a man presenting to a classroom of students

The group in one of the sessions

A feature of the course involved four journal club sessions where the PhD students presented research data addressing several topics on HIV vaccine development and immunology. Tutors and organisers commented that they were overly impressed with the scientific level of presentations and quality of engagement. Joan went further to note “we could realise the training capacity-building achieved after three years of training activities and experimental work in progress, empowering the students in their scientific careers.”

During the training course the team joined the EAVI2020 research call. They tuned in to the current stages of on-going clinical trials at Institut National de Santé et de Recherche Médicale (INSERN) and the design and start of the clinical trials headed by Robin Shattock at Imperial College London.

training course students listening in on a video call with Robin Shattock regarding EAVI2020 20 people sitting at tables listening to a talk

From left: Prof. Robin Shattock giving his presentation during the EAVI2020 research call and on the right, the training course students listening in.

The group also had the opportunity to visit BOKU’s BioIndustrial Pilot Plant at the Department of Biotechnology. A multi-purpose plant for fermentation the plant is intended for research and development of a wide range of biotechnological processes.

There was also a tour of the Polymun facility. Polymun is well known worldwide as having developed the first human monoclonal antibodies to neutralize HIV in the late 1980s and for its pioneering work in the field of influenza in the 1990s which involved the development of an influenza life nasal spray vaccine. (read article, 2013). During the tour, the team felt very honoured to share discussions with Prof. Hermann Katinger, Polymun Founder.

the Polymun facility building facade

Outside the Polymun facility

Overall, the course was a success.  Elie Richel said “The EAVI2020 PhD training course has been my first great opportunity to meet and have interesting discussions with other international PhD students working on the HIV vaccine field”. Chun-Wei Chen said “I was very happy to get involved…Especially, the course and facility tour offered by Polymun. [It] gave me a comprehensive understanding of vaccine-related products from lab to clinic and even industrial manufacturing”. Chun-Wei went on to note that the journal club session was a great opportunity to improve “my skills in presentation and asking questions”. The whole group were very grateful to Dr Dietmar Katinger and the BOKU and Polymun teams for co-organising.

team at dinner enjoying traditional cuisine at Heuriger Ing. Werner Welser

After an intense few days, the group relaxed and enjoyed traditional cuisine at Heuriger Ing. Werner Welser

The course wrapped up with a social dinner at Heuriger Ing. Werner Welser with traditional Viennese/Austrian wines, dishes and desserts. Overall, the students had a very productive and useful training course along with a very enjoyable social outing.

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