The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


18 Jul 2019

Organoids Are Us 2019 wrap-up

Written by Professor Elizabeth Vincan (Doherty Institute) and Dr Maree Faux (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute).

Organoids Are Us 2019 was a one-day symposium held at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) to highlight the game changing advances to science and medicine that are the direct result of the discovery of Lgr5 as a cell-surface marker of adult stem cells in 2007 by the Clevers Laboratory in the Netherlands.

The Clevers Laboratory then went on to demonstrate that these tissue restricted adult stem cells can be coerced into forming mini-replicas of tissues, termed ‘organoids’, meaning ‘organ-like’ that can be readily manipulated, genetically or pharmacologically, to understand what makes a stem cell be a stem cell, and what changes occur in a normal stem cell to make them become cancer cells.

This symposium follows on from the first Organoids Are Us symposium held at the Doherty Institute in 2018. International (Tokameh Mahmoudi, Erasmus MC, The Netherlands), interstate (Susan Woods, SAHMRI, Adelaide, SA) and local researchers, clinicians and medical scientists using organoids delivered talks on advances in stem cell, cancer, bioengineering, diagnostics and public health; and, the new frontier for organoid technology, modelling infectious disease.

Tokameh Mahmoudi’s and the Clever’s team have established novel models of natural infection of liver and lung organoids. These models will advance our understanding pathogen entry and the control or prevention of infection. Furthermore, organoids can be established from patient-derived tumours for anti-cancer drug pre-screening.

The response of the tumour organoids to drug treatment matches the response of the patient to therapy. Thus, we can truly personalise therapy and avoid unnecessary treatment.

Tokameh Mahmoudi also presented work on early markers of liver cancer, while Rob Ramsay (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) demonstrated the utility of organoids in understanding immune response to tumour cells.

Peter Gibbs, joint division head of Personalised Oncology at WEHI, provided an update on Australia’s advances to introducing ‘organoid’ testing to pre-screen a patient’s response to anti-cancer drugs.

In Europe and the US ‘organoid’ pre-screens form an integral part of a patient’s diagnosis and treatment decision.

‘Organoid’ testing is also applicable to conditions with a defined genetic cause, such as cystic fibrosis [see Australian Living Organoid Alliance (ALOA) website, headed by Prof Tony Burgess, WEHI].

At the Doherty Institute, we are perfectly placed to advance the adoption of organoids into infection and immunity models, given the multi-disciplinary groups (Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL), Epidemiology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Royal Melbourne Hospital laboratories etc) all housed in the one institute, and in close proximity to WEHI, University of Melbourne and the Hospitals.

The symposium was attended by 190 delegates from diverse backgrounds and was generously supported by Scientifix, Corning, STEMCELL Technologies, RastrumInventia, Geneworks, TrendBio, GE Health, the Centre for Stem Cell Systems and the ARC Centre for Personalised Therapeutics Technologies (University of Melbourne).

Huge thanks to all at WEHI, especially Jaci Hoysted and Sabine Kelly; and Jean Moselen and Bang Tran (Vincan Laboratory, Doherty Institute) for their invaluable help with organising this event.

Planning for Organoids Are Us 2020 is underway with symposium ‘save the date’ announcement later this year.

Most importantly, the organisers, Dr Maree Faux (WEHI) and Professor Elizabeth Vincan (Doherty) extend their thanks to all the delegates, especially those travelled overseas and interstate for this one day symposium. We look forward to seeing you all in 2020.