The International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAGs) played a primary role, at RESCEU 4th GAM. Precisely, one of the main responsibilities of this body of experts on scientific and technical matters relevant to the project is to provide advice to the General Assembly and the Steering Committee and support their decision making.
In this year’s General Assembly Meeting, the ISAG was represented by its Chair, Larry Anderson (Emory University), Mark A. Miller (National Institutes of Health) and Pasi Penttinen (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – ECDC). After attending all presentations and scientific debates that took place in the two-half day sessions, they offered their feedback on the annual progress made by the different work packages.
Besides commending the project’s leadership and its substantial achievements in an exceptional context, they referred to the new scenario created by the COVID-19 emergency. From their point of view, RESCEU is a shiny example of what can be done to address other vaccine preventable diseases, including COVID-19. In this sense, they considered that RESCEU’s activities have set the standard in terms of generating the data and literature review that is relevant mainly for the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs). In fact, NITAGs were identified as a key audience for the RESCEU project.
They also encouraged the RESCEU Consortium to face the next scientific challenges formulated by the project itself, explore ways to collaborate and share data with other groups and, finally contribute to find a response in COVID-19 related studies.
Harish Naïr, RESCEU project coordinator, confirmed that the Consortium plans to collaborate with ECDC and NIGA going forward. “We will work together with policy makers to shape the agenda for the introduction of RSV immunization and raise awareness about this disease” he stated.
RSV research has a bright future judging by the good work and implication shown by the early career researchers during RESCEU’s virtual 4th General Assembly Meeting (GAM). Indeed, this year’s edition wanted to bring into focus the contribution young scientists are making to the project which intends to build knowledge on RSV for the future development of effective RSV preventative options and therapeutics.
Early career researchers involved in RESCEU were given the opportunity to present the progress that has been made in their respective work packages. Ting Shi and You Li (both research fellows at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh) presented a systematic literature review on RSV and the current estimates of burden of disease; Deniz Öner (Jannsen Pharmaceutica), Joseph McGinley and Gu-Lung Lin (University of Oxford ) disclosed their findings on presumed risk factors and biomarkers for RSV-related severe disease and related sequelae. As for Xiao Li (University of Antwerp), she focused on retrospective resource use analyses from existing databases and networks whilst Joanne Wildenbeest (University Medical Center Utrecht) offered a presentation on prospective data collection. In fact, assembling existing RSV data to inform policy‐making and regulatory decisions is one of RESCEU’s main objectives.
In similar terms summarized Ting Shi her experience: “The RESCEU virtual meeting provided the most updated and comprehensive research on RSV disease. It was a huge success, especially under the challenge of COVID-19 pandemic”.Although the meeting was initially planned to take place face to face in Edinburgh, it was moved online once the pandemic broke out. This new format did not prevent knowledge sharing and science debate. “Although it was a virtual meeting, I felt very engaged and the synergy was very positive” observed Li.
RESCEU celebrated its 4th General Assembly Meeting last 17th and 18th of June in exceptional circumstances due to COVID-19.
The plans to congregate RESCEU’s Consortium members in the historical city of Edinburg to celebrate the 4th General Assembly Meeting (GAM) in a three-day event were cut short by COVID-19. Given this year’s challenging circumstances, knowledge sharing, and scientific debate were taken online. Nearly 90 participants gathered virtually to assess the achievements made so far by the project, discuss key topics, and set the agenda for the upcoming months.
The sessions were hosted and moderated by Harish Nair (Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh) and Clarisse Demont (Sanofi Pasteur), coordinator and project leader respectively of the RESCEU project, who repeatedly gave the floor to early careers researchers. Indeed, young scientists had a prominent role during the two half-day online event celebrated on 17th and 18th of June. Ting Shi and You Li (both research fellows at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh), Deniz Öner (Jannsen Pharmaceutica), Joseph McGinley and Gu-Lung Lin (University of Oxford), Xiao Li (University of Antwerp), and Joanne Wildenbeest (University Medical Center Utrecht) presented the results of their respective work packages which focus largely in assembling existing RSV data with a view to inform policy‐making and regulatory decisions within the European Union.
Harry Campbell and You Li (from the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh) together with Anne Tierlinck (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands) shared their progress on consolidation of health care systems data which will eventually support widespread cooperation, data sharing and surveillance across Europe.
With regards to the development of effective RSV prevention and treatment, Michael Abram (AstraZeneca) referred to the promising results obtained from a primary analysis of the phase 2b study of nirsevimab (MEDI8897). This immunization to prevent RSV is being developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.
The GAM also addressed other topics such as the impact of COVID-19 in RSV research and reviewed the important task carried out by the Patient Advisory Board this last year. As exposed by Nicole Derksen (PAB Coordinator at RESCEU), a substantial effort has been put into raising awareness about RSV, disseminating lay summaries of publications, and incorporating patients’ views to the project and vaccine trial developments.
Experts of the International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG) also attended this virtual GAM. Larry Anderson (Emory University), Mark Miller (National Institutes of Health) and Pasi Penttinen (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) agreed on the outstanding progress made by the project in this challenging times and referred to the impact of COVID-19 in respiratory virus surveillance in Europe.
Clarisse Demont and Harish Nair closed the meeting by thanking all participants and members of the Consortium for their contribution and commitment to the fight to prevent RSV.
Joanne Wildenbeest is a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Utrecht.
Together with Louis Bont I am leading the clinical cohort studies of Work-Package (WP) 4. The primary objective of the cohort studies is to determine the burden of RSV disease in healthy infants (the birth cohort study), community dwelling older adults (the older adults cohort study) and COPD patients (COPD cohort study). I have been involved in the development of the study protocols, including the questionnaires and the sample collection plan for which we have worked closely together with WP 3 and WP 5. The clinical studies started in 2017. During the conduct of the studies regular teleconferences were held with the participating centers of each study to discuss recruitment and study progress and any issues that might arise. The older adults study has been finished and results will be published in the coming months. The birth cohort study and the COPD study are still ongoing. I am also the local principal investigator of the infant case-control study. I co-supervise 3 PhD students who are working on the RESCEU project.
How do you foresee the future of RSV infection after RESCEU project?
In their final summary both the reviewers and our project officer were full of praise for RESCEU both for our scientific achievements, as well as for patient and public engagement and the positive team spirit that was evident to everyone. Of course, not everything is wonderful, and the reviewers have recommendations to make our project better.
Congratulations to the whole Consortium for accomplish this important milestone successfully!