Last month, roughly 5,000 liver community stakeholders gathered in London for the 2022 International Liver Congress (#ILC2022.) On Thursday afternoon, Scott Friedman chaired an abstract session discussing advances in the basic liver science of researching and understanding mechanisms surrounding fibrosis and stellate cells. Later, he described it as “one of the most exciting groups of presentations I’ve seen in many years.” After this extremely rich and engaging discussion of advances in research processes and the findings the group discussed, Roger Green asked the group with the impact of advances like these will be over the next “year, three years, five years.”
The answers vary significantly from one panelist to another, in each case reflecting where the panel members touches the healthcare system and product industries. Scott discusses the ability of research to create completely new classes of therapies with previously unimaginable impact on disease, citing CAR-T as one example that is already in use. Louise Campbell makes a vastly different but very important point: it will work better for everyone if we can create more tissue samples, and the ability to generate these kinds of advances will make it easier for providers to ask patients to provide tissue samples and will increase the number of patients who say, “Yes.” Scott and Neil both note how good and important a point this is, with Neil stating that the growth in data we can produce from tissue is “exponential,” and that this data is key to creating better disease understanding, diagnostics and drugs. Rachel discusses two key areas where the cost of research is decreasing: availability of open-source data sets and cost of actual sequencing. Jörn suggests that having a richer understanding of disease will reduce the number of drug failures, partly because we will know how to capitalize on what we are learning and partly because we may not rush into major drug trials where we lack elements of basic understanding. Roger closes with two summary points: (i) that the technologies the group discussed will be applicable not only for NASH but an array of other liver diseases, and (ii) the over the past three years, the field has created a vastly larger number of data points which is starting to look less like scattered points and more like connected dots making an actual picture.
With these final notes of optimism and energy, the group closed the discussion.