Registration is open for the VANGUARD workshop on ethics in regenerative medicine

Registration is now open for VANGUARD’s Online Workshop on the topic of Ethics in regenerative medicine. The event will take place on Thursday the 3rd of February 2022 and start at 16:00 CET.

A panel of experts will discuss ethical challenges that arise with the arrival of bio-engineered organs:

  • How can first-in-human clinical trials be conducted in a safe and responsible manner?
  • What are ethical points to consider for early clinical trials of regenerative medicine in transplantation?

You will have the chance to hear from the key opinion leader in the area of ethics in biomedicine, Professor Jonathan Kimmelman from McGill University.

The workshop will also include insights from the three ongoing projects on regenerative medicine:

  • BRAVE – Biomechanics and regenerative medicine for a one-shot treatment
  • OrganTrans – Controlled Organoids transplantation as enabler for regenerative medicine translation
  • VANGUARD – Bioartificial Pancreas to Cure Type 1 Diabetes

To conclude the meeting, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Emma Massey (Erasmus Medical Centre) will bring together Prof. Kimmelman, Dr. Antonia Cronin (King’s College London), and Dr. Ekaterine Berishvili (University of Geneva) to further discuss ethical aspects in regenerative medicine.

Please note that registration in advance is required.

VANGUARD presented at the SFT Congress

Our coordinator Ekaterine Berishvili took a part in the 2021 Société Francophone de Transplantation (SFT) on December 8 to explain the challenges and to share the progress that was made during the first year and a half of the VANGUARD project.

The SFT congress is now an established event with a 20 years-long tradition. This is the first time after 10 years that the SFT is taking place in Switzerland.

Geneva was a natural choice for the organisation of this year’s SFT Congress, as the Geneva and Lausanne University Hospitals represent a cluster of knowledge with their world-renowned transplantation activities.

We look forward to the next annual Congress in Lyon, on December 13-16 2022.

VANGUARD researchers awarded at the IPITA 2021 Virtual Congress

IPITA is the international pancreas and islet transplant association and the VANGUARD project had the honour to present its research findings at the 2021 Virtual Congress that took place on 20-23 October.

The conference enabled the scientists to connect with experts from both the industry and research. Between other things, the content of the Virtual Congress 2021 was structured around the updates on state-of-the-art research and around the clinical data results. During these three days, the participants had the chance to present their findings, actively discuss, and share their knowledge on diabetes and transplant-related topics.

We are proud to announce that Kevin Bellofatto and Fanny Lebreton (University of Geneva), and Antonio Citro (Hospital San Raffaele) have won the Best Oral Abstract and Best Poster Abstract awards.

We are looking forward to sharing new findings again the next year.

New VANGUARD infographic available

To introduce the VANGUARD project in easier to understand terms we have developed an infographic to explain the complex research happening in VANGUARD in a visual form.

New publications from the UNIGE group

VANGUARD is generating its first scientific outcomes, as seven works from the UNIGE group have recently been accepted and published in various journals such as Transplant International, Current Diabetes Report and Stem Cell Reviews and Reports:

Alibashe-Ahmed M, Berney T, Giovannoni L, Berishvili E (2020). Targeting Toll-Like Receptor 4: a promising strategy to prevent type 1 diabetes occurrence or recurrence. CellR4; 8: e2850.

Berishvili E, Kaiser L, Cohen M, Berney T, Scholz H, Floisand Y, Mattsson J (2020). Treatment of COVID-19 Pneumonia: the Case for Placenta-derived Cell Therapy. Stem Cell Reviews and Reports.

Berney T, Berishvili E (2020). I’ve got you under my skin. Nature Metabolism: News & Views.

Lebreton F, Wassmer CH, Bellofatto K, Berney T, and Berishvili E (2020). Organoïdes sécréteurs d’insuline : des «super-îlots» comme premier pas vers le pancréas bioartificiel. Med Sci (Paris), Volume 36, Number 10.

Wassmer CH, Bellofatto K, Perez L, Lavallard V, Cottet-Dumoulin D, Ljubicic S, Parnaud G, Bosco D, Berishvili E, Lebreton F (2020). Engineering of Primary Pancreatic Islet Cell Spheroids for Three-dimensional Culture or Transplantation: A Methodological Comparative Study. Cell Transplantation.

Wassmer CH, Berishvili E (2020). Immunomodulatory Properties of Amniotic Membrane Derivatives and Their Potential in Regenerative Medicine. Current Diabetes Reports volume 20, Article number: 31.

Wassmer CH, Lebreton F, Bellofatto K, Bosco D, Berney T, Berishvili E (2020). Generation of insulin-secreting organoids: a step toward engineering and transplanting the bioartificial pancreas. Transpl Int. 2020 Aug 27. doi: 10.1111/tri.13721.

The updated list of publications with hyperlinks can be found in the Outcomes section.

Information for patients and their relatives

Dear followers of the VANGUARD project,

Since the VANGUARD website has been activated, we have received many messages from patients and their families enquiring about the possibility to enroll in the study.

We are grateful to have so many people interested in the project and following our progress. At the same time, we feel a great responsibility toward people living with type 1 diabetes and their families.

At this time, we are at the very start of the VANGUARD project. We have had a small delay in getting started due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming years we will work on developing the individual parts of the VANGUARD product. Once the separate parts are ready, we will assemble them to form the complete bioartificial pancreas. In order to understand whether the individual parts and the assembled product work, we will carry out our research on small animals. This development phase will take 5 years. After this we hope to start studying how the bioartificial pancreas works in humans/people.

Before we can test the bioartificial pancreas in humans, we need to show that it works (i.e. that it effectively produces insulin) and that it is safe to use in humans. The whole VANGUARD consortium is committed to meet these challenges.

As part of this project we will be investigating the patient perspective on this product. What are patients’ thoughts, concerns or information needs? We will study this so we can take these things into consideration in the next phase of human testing. When we start this part of our research, we will post information on how you can participate on our social media platforms. We hope you will get involved!

In the meantime, we will post news on the VANGUARD project on our social media platforms to keep you informed on our progress and the milestones we have reached.

Thank you for your interest in the VANGUARD project and be assured that the whole VANGUARD team is committed to deliver the bioartificial pancreas for you in the hope of offering a new treatment for Type I diabetes in the future.

Ekaterine Berishvili, MD, PhD, project coordinator

On behalf of the VANGUARD consortium

New article published on Immunomodulatory Properties of Amniotic Membrane Derivatives and Their Potential in Regenerative Medicine

The VANGUARD coordinator, Ekaterine Berishvili together with Charles-Henri Wassmer have recently published a new article in Current Diabetes Reports on the Immunomodulatory Properties of Amniotic Membrane Derivatives and Their Potential in Regenerative Medicine.

Purpose of Review

During the last decades, the field of regenerative medicine has been rapidly evolving. Major progress has been made in the development of biological substitutes applying the principles of cell transplantation, material science, and bioengineering.

Recent Findings

Among other sources, amniotic-derived products have been used for decades in various fields of medicine as a biomaterial for the wound care and tissue replacement. Moreover, human amniotic epithelial and mesenchymal cells have been intensively studied for their immunomodulatory capacities.


Amniotic cells possess two major characteristics that have already been widely exploited. The first is their ability to modulate and suppress the innate and adaptive immunities, making them a true asset for chronic inflammatory disorders and for the induction of tolerance in transplantation models. The second is their multilineage differentiation capacity, offering a source of cells for tissue engineering. The latter combined with the use of amniotic membrane as a scaffold offers all components necessary to create an optimal environment for cell and tissue regeneration. This review summarizes beneficial properties of hAM and its derivatives and discusses their potential in regenerative medicine.

Read the full article online: