CF Foundation’s Annual Scientific Meeting Kicks Off in
June 2, 2008
More than 110 cystic fibrosis researchers came together last Friday to kick off the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual Williamsburg Conference in southeastern Virginia. The 2008 conference, which takes place May 30th through June 3rd, will focus entirely on the defective CF protein, Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane conductance Regulator or CFTR, the key protein associated with CF.
Preston W. Campbell, III, M.D., executive vice president for medical affairs of the CF Foundation makes opening remarks at the 2008 Williamsburg Conference dinner reception.
The structure of this year’s conference is a departure from previous years. “Williamsburg used to be a survey of CF science, but this year it’s focusing on outstanding questions related to CFTR: What don’t we know about CFTR? What do we need to do to advance our drug discovery programs faster? How do we prioritize compounds that may affect CFTR?” explains Diana Wetmore, vice president of alliance management for CFFT, the non-profit drug discovery and development affiliate of the Foundation.
“We have moved now from developing therapies that treat the symptoms of CF to developing therapies aimed at treating the basic defect,” said Preston W. Campbell, III, M.D., executive vice president for medical affairs of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in his remarks at the meeting’s opening. “There are still many questions that need to be answered concerning this complicated disease, and this group can help us answer those questions.”
Following Campbell’s introduction, Charles Hawkins, the evening’s keynote speaker, presented his “Musings of a CF Lab Animal.” Hawkins, both a CF patient and a CF researcher at Johns Hopkins University, explained what his life is like as a CF patient, researcher and clinical trials participant.
CF researchers gather to listen the keynote speaker at the dinner reception that officially kicks off the 2008 Williamsburg Conference.
“From as early as I can remember I used to read everything I could about CF. Tonight, it’s very inspiring to see this big crowd devoting their research lives to keeping me healthy,” said Hawkins, who is a 41 year-old adult living with CF.
Taking an active role in contributing to the effort to develop new CF therapies, Hawkins has participated in CF clinical trials throughout his life. “I’ve been involved in a lot of research studies—I think I’m up to 13 or 14 now,” said Hawkins. “These days I’m down to one a year or one every other year because there’s not much out there I haven’t done.”
His most recent clinical trial, however, was his most memorable—and challenging. As an adult with CF, Hawkins spends two to two-and-a-half hours per day doing his treatments. The last drug trial required an added hour onto this daily regimen. “Toward the end, it became more than I could do,” recalled Hawkins. He concluded by emphasizing that it’s important for researchers to focus on replacing existing drugs rather than adding to the therapy burden CF patients already bear. Overall, Hawkins stressed that new treatments will change the face of this disease and expressed his gratitude to everyone in the room for moving us in the right direction.
Hawkins reflections captivated the conference attendees, who applauded him and expressed awe at his daily life as a person living with CF. The stories Hawkins shared appropriately closed the evening, providing inspiration for the upcoming conference sessions where pivotal research about CFTR and CFTR correction will be presented.