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Florence SABATIER

Florence SABATIER

PharmD, PhD

Head of the Cell Therapy Laboratory at the Hôpital de la Conception | Professor of Hematology and Biotherapy at Aix-Marseille

AMU, AP-HM

The cell therapy laboratory was initially created to reconstruct skin cells from severe burns. Step by step, it has opened up to therapeutic innovation and this is now the unit's main purpose. This work requires significant expertise and transdisciplinarity. The laboratory is actually positioned at the interface between biology and "drug". We work closely with research centres, first and foremost with VRCM, and hospital services including internal medicine specialists at the Hôpital Nord, the plastic surgery service at the Hôpital de la Conception and the Mediterranean interregional burns centre. Our cell therapies are also clinically evaluated which in turn requires us to meet regulatory requirements. The implementation and production of these therapies is complicated, which is why only some hospital laboratories including ours have received authorisation from the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products (ANSM).
The laboratory's mission therefore reflects that of the Marseille Immunopôle: to lead the development of these innovations, from the initial discovery to the proof of concept in clinical setting. We therefore also work in collaboration with biopharmaceutical companies that will have responsibility for evaluating and marketing these new therapies on a large scale.

Over several years, we have established a new approach based on a source of cells that is still unexplored: stromal vascular fraction. Hidden at the centre of fatty tissues, these cells are easily accessible and very rich in stem cells that consequently promote growth and regeneration. This approach is the subject of a first validation in a phase 1 trial led by Professor Brigitte Granel's team. We are involved in a phase 2 clinical trial in scleroderma, a rare and very debilitating autoimmune disease.

Nowadays, the treatments that we are developing are designed for patients suffering from very debilitating inflammatory diseases who have reached an impasse in their treatment options. Over time, our ambition is to open up these approaches to indications affecting a larger number of patients such as diabetic foot ulcer and arthritic knee.

As is the case for cancer, inflammatory diseases will be treated in future using combination therapies. The Marseille Immunopôle project has the same purpose: combining molecular and cellular approaches so that patients can regain control of their disease. Needless to say, the other challenge for the MI is education. In the near future, cell therapy will form a key part in the standard therapeutic mix for cancers and inflammatory diseases. We must therefore allow our students to understand all aspects of this approach: its scientific and technological foundations as well as the perspective of applications it offers to our patients.

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