Appointment of Prof. Sabrina Sacconi, she will head the research axis dedicated to neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders

Short biography of Sabrina Sacconi PU PH

Professor of Neurology and works at the University Hospital of Nice as Head of the Peripheral Nervous System and Muscle Department, Head of the Rare Neuromuscular Diseases Reference Centre and the Competence Centre for Neurogenetic Diseases. She is also a researcher at IRCAN (Institut of Research on Cancer and Aging of Nice, INSERM U1081 – CNRS UMR 7284) directed by Professor Eric GILSON. Very active in research, both in the clinical and fundamental aspects, she obtained a PhD in Science from UNSA in 2008 and an Habilitation to Lead Research in 2012. His main research interests are Facio-Scapulo-Humeral Muscular Dystrophy and degenerative muscle diseases, with a particular focus on the impact of ageing and genomic instability on the pathophysiology of these rare diseases, as well as on the possible impact on innovative therapies. She is also interested in the use of new technologies to improve the diagnosis and clinical evaluation of neuromuscular diseases.

Interview of Sabrina Sacconi:

  • What research, innovations or major advances in knowledge are you currently focusing on?

Thanks to advances in new technologies, innovative immunological and gene therapies in the field of neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases are making major advances and are beginning to be tested and used on patients.

Faced with these new opportunities, many clinical and biological questions arise as to how to develop new therapies that are more effective or less toxic, how to identify and select patients who could benefit from them, how to quantify the biological effects in the short and long term, and what strategy to adopt in more advanced disease stages. 

These therapies could also be applicable to the aging of muscles and brains and furthering knowledge about normal aging and pathological aging in these two tissues could lead to the development of more therapies for neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases and all diseases related to aging.

  • You are currently working on many research projects, can you tell us a few words about them? Do you have any other plans for the future?
The research projects I am working on answer the questions raised above. Currently I am working on the constitution of cohorts that integrate new digital technologies for data collection, sample storage in bio-banks to stimulate translational research and artificial intelligence for statistical analysis and the creation of mathematical models (RESOLVE International Project, French National Observatory DMFSH).
Using new digital technologies, in vitro and in vivo models of normal and pathological aging, we are developing and testing new therapeutic strategies (such as immunotherapies for patients with neuromuscular genetic diseases), new indicators for measuring the progression of a disease or the effectiveness of a therapeutic approach (FACE NMD project, RESOLVE France, SMA2T) applicable at a distance (ALCOTRA PROSOL European Project, PROSOLCARE telemedicine platform) or biomarkers of severity or therapeutic monitoring in the field of neuromuscular diseases (FSHD CYTO) and ageing. For the future, I would like to continue and expand these projects and promote collaborations with the teams investing in fundamental and translational research within OncoAge and with the clinical teams within the OPTIMAGE Consortium.
  • Can the federation be a support to help you progress through the network it leads?
Most of the projects I am working on are the result of collaborations promoted within the ONCOAGE Federation with research teams from IRCAN and CHUN, of which I am a member, but also from INRIA, IPMC and ICP. The transversal and multidisciplinary approach and the sharing of human and technological resources have made it possible to progress more quickly in the construction of projects. The support for dissemination and training through logistical support for the organization of congresses made it possible to organize within ONCOAGE the first European congress on e-health and innovation in the field of neuromuscular diseases « eNMD 2019: e-health and innovation to overcome barriers in NMD ».  
  • Your willingness for this working group as a Work Package Leader?
Within OncoAge, I intend to federate, the research and fundamental teams involved in the field of neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases around concrete objectives, decided in a collegial manner; while benefiting from and developing new technologies and innovative therapeutic approaches in the field of normal and pathological ageing of the brain and muscle.

Appointment of Prof. Thierry Passeron as Deputy Director of the oncoage federation, he will head the new research axis dedicated to dermatology

Short biography of Thierry PASSERON, MD, PhD

Professor of Dermatology at the University Hospital of Nice. He also heads the laboratory INSERM U1065 team 12, C3M, dedicated to the study of molecular mechanisms involved in pigmentation and melanoma. He heads the University laser center in Nice. He is president of the Department of Clinical Research and Innovation of Nice University hospital and vice-president of Côte d’Azur University. He has seven international patents and more than 220 publications in scientific journals (h-index 41). He is co-founder of YUKIN therapeutics. His fields of research includes pigmentary disorders (including vitiligo and melasma), melanoma, hidradenitis suppurativa, alopecia areata and lasers.

Interview of Thierry Passeron:

  • What research, innovations or major advances in knowledge are you currently focusing on?

Skin cancers and melanoma in particular, have been the subject of major therapeutic advances in the past few years. Thus, targeted therapies and immunotherapy have for the first time significantly increased the overall survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. These treatments have recently been proposed as adjuvants, particularly after lymph node involvement.

Initially proposed for melanoma, immunotherapy is now available for many cancers. Unfortunately, full response rates are still insufficient. There is a lot of work being done at the moment to try to find predictive response factors on the one hand, but also to improve immunotherapy.

  • You are joining OncoAge to create a new Work Package, what do you expect from the federation?

We have always had close links with Professor Hofman’s Clinical and Experimental Pathology Laboratory (CEPL). The Dermatology department has the opportunity to work with 3 INSERM units dedicated to melanoma, one of which I co-lead. Thanks to the CEPA Tumour Library, we have been conducting translational research on our patients’ tissue and blood samples for several years. By joining the OncoAge federation we will be able to pool our resources and samples with other specialities such as pneumology for example. We will also be able to set up more ambitious research projects and respond to international calls for tenders. Finally, we have developed several agents in our research laboratories. One of them is the first NIK allosteric inhibitor. This kinase controls the non-canonical pathway of NFkB and plays a key role in most solid cancers by controlling the oncogene EZH2. By inhibiting NIK, it “warms” tumors and greatly enhances the response to immunotherapy (especially anti-PD1 Ac). We have very encouraging results in vitro but also on murine models in melanoma and colon cancer. Since May 2018 we have created with the Advent investment fund, the startup YUKUN therapeutics. Since April 2019, another partner (Medixci) has been a shareholder in order to bring our compounds into the clinical phase in humans. If we reach this stage, the clinical phase will be coordinated by our centre and the product can be tested on several cancers within the framework of the OncoAge federation.

  • Can links be made between oncology, aging and cancer in dermatology and other specialties through the exchanges that OncoAge allows with other research teams?

These links are naturally strong. In our region we see a large proportion of elderly patients. We check this every week in our multidisciplinary consultation meetings in oncodermatology. As the population ages, the number of older people who will be able to receive cancer treatment will increase and it is essential to conduct specific studies on this age group. Our federation must be in the front line to meet this challenge and propose institutional and industrial studies for this group of patients.

A new space for biobank, OncoAge and the MSc Biobanks Complex Data Management

We are very happy to announce that OncoAge has a new office in Pasteur Hospital 1. The inauguration is planned for May 2019.

The new building includes :

  • 2 meeting rooms , full equipped with Visio conference system and video projector
  • a waiting room in the entrance, with sofa…

This place is located in Nice (South of France), in Hôpital Pasteur 1, Pavillon I. (see the map for location)

This collaborative and pedagogical office will be dedicated to OncoAge teams, and the biobanks team for their meetings and events.

It also will be use for the MSc Biobanks and Complex Data Management during their courses time.