Speakers: 3rd BELSACT Scientific Meeting


Native and engineered megakaryocytic extracellular vesicles for cell- and gene-therapies

Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis (University of Delaware) is the Unidel Eugene DuPont Professor at the Dept. of Chem. & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware.Papoutsakis has made important contributions in both microbial and animal-cell biotechnology. Animal-cell biotechnology includes seminal work on mixing and agitation in cell-culture bioreactors, and stem-cell bioengineering and the use of extracellular vesicles for applications in cell and gene therapies. Microbial biotechnology work includes contributions in clostridia genetics and metabolic engineering with emphasis recently in syntrophic co-cultures for CO2 co-utilization with biomass carbohydrates to achieve supra-physiological product yields, but also E. coli biotechnology including synthetic methylotrophy and stress tolerance.

He was elected to National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM), the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) &  the International Academy of Medical & Biological Engineering (IAMBE). He has received numerous awards, including the 2022 William Walker Award (the senior award of the Amer. Institute of Chemical Engineers, AIChE),  the 2020 Amer. Soc. for Microbiology (ASM) National Award in Applied Biotechnology, the 2017 Amer. Chemical Society (ACS) E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, the 2013 DIC Wang for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering (SBE/AIChE), the 2012 James E. Bailey Award (SBE/AIChE), the 2010 Metabolic Engineering Award, the 2005 Amgen Biochemical Engineering Award, the 2004 Merck Cell Culture Engineering Award & the 2003 Alpha Chi Sigma AIChE Award. He was elected fellow of the ACS, AIChE, AAAS, and AIMBE.

He received his BS from the National Technical University of Athens & his MS/PhD from Purdue University. He has supervised in research over 70 PhD, 30 MS, 35 postdoctoral and 85 undergraduate students, funded by over $50 million in grants from NSF, NIH, DOE, ARPA-E, ONR & ARO.    

“Implementing Automated, Closed and Integrated Systems in Cell Therapy Manufacturing”

Caterina Masaracchia (Thermo Fisher Scientific) is a Technical Sales Specialist for Cell Culture and Cell Therapy – Bioproduction Group (BPG) at Thermo Fisher Scientific.  She holds a Master Degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Bologna and got her PhD from the University of Gottingen, with a dissertation on Parkinson’s Disease and the internalization of alpha-synuclein (aSyn). During her time at the University of Gottingen, she collaborated in several projects on compounds efficacy and drug testing, and she is the main author of a second project on the structural characterization of an aSyn variant performed at the University of Rosario, in Argentina, where she worked as a Visiting Researcher for 1 year. She transitioned then in the Biopharma Industry, where she started as Technical Support Specialist first,  and later as Scientific Application Manager for Primary Cells and Cell Therapy Products at PromoCell, GmbH. Since November 2020, Caterina is the Sales Specialist responsible for the Benelux area and the Italian Territory for all the products available at Thermofisher BPG, which include the Gibco Portfolio for Cell Culture Media, Sera , Supplement and Peptones , as well as the Services offered from the Gibco Media Express Division, such as Media Development and Analytical Services.

“Sustainable cell & gene therapies by smart biomanufacturing” 

Dr. ir. Jan Schrooten (Antleron) is co-founder and CEO of Antleron (www.antleron.com), an R&D company on a mission to enable personalized manufacturing 4.0 of advanced therapies. Antleron integrates innovative technologies like 3D printing with engineered cell-production processes in bioreactors and digital process control & optimization into factories-of-the-future for cell therapy, vaccine- and tissue-manufacturing. Jan Schrooten is board member of flanders.bio and MEDVIA, respectively the cluster organisation for the life sciences sector in Flanders and the industry driven public private partnership with the Flemish government to stimulate healthcare innovations. Previously Jan Schrooten was senior research manager at KU Leuven, responsible for the long-term management and technology transfer of biomaterials and tissue engineering research. He also co-founded and managed Prometheus, the KU Leuven R&D division of Skeletal Tissue Engineering. Trained as a materials engineer, with an engineering PhD in biomaterials and a postgraduate in business administration, he scientifically focused on translational regenerative medicine, with special attention for tissue engineering applications.

“Bioengineering organoid fate and morphogenesis”

Adrian Ranga (KU Leuven) is Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at KU Leuven. His research focuses on bioengineering and synthetic in vitro development. Ranga pioneered the use of synthetic artificial extracellular matrices and combinatorial arrays for interrogating stem cell and organoid behaviour . Since starting the Laboratory of Bioengineering and Morphogenesis at KU Leuven in 2016, his main interest has been to understand and manipulate how cells assemble into organised multicellular structures, and particularly the role of mechanical forces and vasculature in these processes. To do so, the Ranga lab has developed key enabling technologies such as actuation and microfluidic organ-on-chip devices. The Ranga lab translates these findings towards disease models leading to better drug testing and therapeutic applications. Ranga has received several awards for his work, including an Allen Distinguished Investigator Award.

“Building an ecosystem for advanced therapeutic modalities”

Els Henckaerts (KU Leuven) obtained a M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Antwerp and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. She headed a research group at King’s College London before returning to Belgium in 2019. Her research covers several aspects of AAV-based gene therapy development, ranging from vector biology to manufacturing and preclinical studies. Her team is tapping into an international network of academic and industrial partners to tackle some of the challenges the field is currently facing.

“How digital twins simplify operators’ daily activities and realize operational excellence”

Nicolas Vertommen (OUAT!): Entrepreneur at heart combined & team player, Nicolas Vertommen co-founded OUAT! after holding product marketing management positions in startup & multinational biotech companies. Marketing lover & a big fan of all kinds of innovations, he’s a strong believer that even the most innovative technologies do not sell themselves and need to be supported by remarkable marketing.

“Improvement of data integrity and real-time recording in pharmaceutical operations”

Denis Decubber (SalamenderU): Chairman board of Directors. Chemical engineer with more than 30 years of experience in Quality Management Systems and especially GMP systems specially dedicated to cell and gene therapy operations.

Driving environmental sustainability in the biopharmaceutical industry

Lara Cobacho Lluesma (Sartorius): Sustainability Project Manager at Sartorius, having joined the company in 2022. In this role, Lara’s main responsibility is to collect sustainability requests and needs from customers and monitor related trends. Working closely with the sustainability team, she develops projects that address these needs and brings cross-functional teams together to drive their implementation. Lara also fosters strategic partnership development and serves as the first point of contact for all key accounts regarding sustainability requests.

Before joining Sartorius, Lara held various positions in customer-facing roles across customer success and sales. In these roles, she worked with a diverse range of customers to understand their unique needs and provide tailored solutions to drive their success.

Scaling-up iPSC-based cell therapies: towards clinical grade processes with biomimetic C-Stem technology

Odette Becheau (TreeFrog Therapeutics) obtained in 2014 a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology Engineering from the Bordeaux Engineering Institute of Biotechnology in France. Moving to Belgium and then Boston, MA, she joined Pall Biotech as Principal Scientist. Serving worldwide customers in the field of viral vectors and virus vaccines, she provided expertise in the optimization and scale-up of cell culture processes for preclinical and clinical grade applications. In 2021, Odette started a new position as Senior Application scientist at TreeFrog Therapeutics – a French-based biotech company developing a breakthrough technology for the mass-production of hiPSC-based cell therapies. Coordinating collaborations with biotech and pharmas, she provides advanced support to successfully adapt and industrialize partners’ protocols with Treefrog’s C-StemTM technology platform. She spends most of her free time practicing a variety of different sports, including badminton, rock climbing and skiing.

“Polyplus solutions and services for an upstream process optimization

Jean-Thomas Issenhuth (Polypus) obtained a master’s degree in Biochemistry and a Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Strasbourg (2008). He complemented his studies with several post-docs working on different projects in chemistry with a focus on organometallic chemistry, enantioselective-catalysed reactions, and polymerization.

Since 2013 he joined several international sales departments acting first as Business Manager and recently also as Key Account Manager where he has the chance to manage and grow a portfolio of major accounts in the EMEA zone within Polyplus-transfection.

“Technical development of next generation HEK293 media for viral production

Pär Larsson (Cytiva) started his scientific journey by studying for a master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology at the Uppsala University (Sweden) and proceeded with receiving a PhD in Medical Science from the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), focusing on virology, vaccines, and type 1 diabetes. He then moved to the industry and worked practically in the upstream RnD lab at Cytiva with cell line development, processes optimizations, cell culture media development, and viral vector production processes for five years. After this, Pär joined the commercial organization at Cytiva as a Cell Culture Field Application Specialist, combining his strong scientific background with his customer centricity, to help customers setting up and optimizing protein production and viral vector production using multiple host cell lines.

“Dental stem cells for central nervous system repair”

Anne des Rieux (UCLouvain) is a Professor at UCLouvain, in the Advanced Drug Delivery and Biomaterials (ADDB) group within the Louvain Drug Research Institute (LDRI).Since her appointment as a FNRS Chercheur Qualifié in 2011 and UCLouvain Professor in 2022, she has been developing her team in the ADDB group, aiming to develop new therapies for neurological diseases, and more particularly for spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. She is working on 2 2 main axes: 1) drug delivery for the central nervous system and 2) tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Her team develops strategies leading to the stimulation of tissue repair using new nanomedicines and stem cell delivery systems, combining hydrogels, MSC and nanomedicines, in collaboration with multiple local and international teams. Lately, her team has been working on extracellular vesicles and how they can be used as drug delivery systems. She is also developing a microfluidics platform for the production of nano- and micro-particles for the delivery of bioactive molecules and cells.