Hear from Mohammad Ali Rafique, Transplant Technical Sales Specialist at VH Bio, about his experience at the EFI Conference!
I was excited to attend an in-person conference after the past few years of virtual meetings. The past EFI conferences have been a hot-bed for research and showcasing improvements to laboratory protocol, and this year was no different! The implementation of a conference app was much appreciated, especially given there were often sessions running simultaneously in different halls; favouriting a particular session would give a reminder just before it was due to start,
Given the simultaneous running order over all three days, I was forced to pick and choose which sessions to attend especially as I wanted the chance to meet the various companies, view their stands and read the poster abstracts. During the conference I was able to meet with a lot of interesting people, including Wietse Mulder (GenDx) who awarded me a fluffy Miffy toy, Doug Bost (JETA Molecular) who showcased their DigitalTRACE microchimerism assay for transplant monitoring, and of course the great team led by Radek Wawrzyniak at the One Lambda stand. While I found it motivating to meet distributors from other regions and hear how they were doing, it was especially encouraging to see Jar-How Lee, Peter Diep, and Dave Lowe and find out about One Lambda’s continuing focus on research and development across their product lines.
The first day, I was able to see an interesting overview of the national UK TWO study (Dr Harden’s group – Oxford) which covered the use of Tregs to reduce immunosuppression for renal transplant recipients, Professor Stefan Schaub (University Hospital Basel) giving an extremely good overview of the current methods for donor HLA antibody detection and the pros and cons of each, two speakers comparing different acceptance criteria for DSA in stem cell and solid organ transplantation respectively (Dr Ann-Margaret Little – Glasgow, Malte Ziemann – UKSH), and an interesting talk on non-HLA antibodies and their permissiveness in different transplant scenarios (Professor Dr Stefan Berger – UMC Groningen).
On the second day, which saw the famous Tulip run cancelled due to wet weather, I saw some interesting perspectives on what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable antigens in solid organ transplantation, particularly a good talk from Dr David Turner (Edinburgh) discussing the utility of the virtual crossmatch in kidney transplantation; this has become particularly relevant in the UK with many labs implementing some measure of virtual crossmatch for recipients with well-characterised HLA antibody profiles.
This led nicely onto Dr Rob Liwski’s talk (Dalhousie, Canada) regarding his centre’s experience with One Lambda’s ExPlex extended single antigen panel; in this era of increasing usage of virtual crossmatching, Rob provided a plethora of case studies showcasing such examples as identification of DSA not present on standard SAB panels or identified potential windows for transplant for highly sensitised recipients to increase their access to transplant.
Dr Antonio Martinho (Coimbra, Portugal) also presented on how easily AllType FASTplex NGS was implemented into his clinical lab, especially given the short pre-sequencing workflow (<7 hours) and measures to reduce error, such as reduced touchtime (<90 minutes) and majority single-tube workflow for library prep.
Despite missing her presentation at the One Lambda booth on HistoTrac software, Brooke Watson (SystemLink) kindly ran through the software and was happy to answer my many questions. In the end I was satisfied that, being designed by H&I scientists, this would fulfill the requirements I and indeed most labs would be looking for. There was even room for expansion into stock/inventory management in future, as well as good integration across HLA Fusion, TypeStream Visual, and results from third-party software packages.
This conference was capped off by new perpectives on HLA-DQA1/DQB1 permissiveness in HSCT presented by the esteemed Dr Effie Petersdorf (Seattle). Her talk highlighted improvements when matching heterodimers compared to the classic paradigm of allele matching. Her findings were that the presence of G2 molecules (mismatched heterodimers) functioned as a transplantation determinant which negatively impacted relapse and disease-free survival compared to patients with none. This fit a biological model where G2 is a qualitatively different antigen than G1, perhaps causing a re-think of DQ matching for labs going forward.
This article is also featured on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/efi-2022-mohammad-ali-rafique/