Farewell to the outgoing, and welcome to the impressive new SciCom Committee Members of 2024

Isabelle Cleynen, SciCom Chair

Isabelle Cleynen

At the last ECCO Congress, we had three members stepping down from the ECCO Scientific Committee: Marc Ferrante (Leuven, Belgium; Member since 2019, Chair since 2023), Yves Panis (Clichy, France; Member since 2020) and Konstantinos Papamichail (Boston, US; Member since 2020). Although all three of them served on SciCom in a period greatly impacted by the pandemic, together with the other SciCom Members they ensured a seamless continuation of SciCom activities and the initiation of new ones.

These included co-organising the ECCO Congress (Marc in 2022, Yves in 2023, Kostas in 2024), organising the annual SciCom Workshop and supervising a successful Scientific Workshop on postoperative Crohn’s Disease recurrence (Marc and Yves). In addition, they reviewed dozens of the project proposals that we receive every year and contributed to e-CCO Learning Podcasts. Marc also served as the point of contact for the ECCO-IBUS Research Grant, Biocycle and the E-QUALITY project. We want to thank all three of them for their never-ending enthusiasm, their dedication to SciCom and the ECCO Community and particularly their friendship. A special word of thanks to Marc for his leadership as SciCom Chair during the past year. Marc’s commitment, perseverance and direct approach have been instrumental in steering SciCom towards its goals, both current and future.

With goodbyes, however, also come opportunities, and we are thrilled to welcome three outstanding new members to SciCom. Below you’ll find brief introductions to each of them.

Meet Bella Ungar

I am a gastroenterologist and translational scientist heading the gastro-immunology service at Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel, affiliated to Tel Aviv University.

Bella Ungar

After completing my internal medicine residency, I pursued my passion for IBD, combining longitudinal clinical care with clinical and basic research, particularly in therapeutic drug monitoring and pharmacokinetics. My research experiences include a fellowship at Birmingham University, UK, studying macrophage- and monocyte-associated pathways in the gut, and further basic science research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where I specialised in deep RNA sequencing. At Sheba Medical Center, I lead a research lab focusing on RNA sequencing and histology studies in IBD, with the goal of identifying clinical and stool/serum immune biomarkers to predict exacerbations in IBD. Additionally, I head the "Gastro-Femme" gastro-obstetrics clinic, where we aim to improve clinical care and define specific immune targets among female IBD patients dealing with fertility challenges and pregnancy.    

I am very excited about joining SciCom. I would like to assist in advancing IBD translational research throughout the world, and specifically promote research on female-specific IBD challenges.

Meet Nick Powell

I’m delighted to join SciCom and to have the opportunity to contribute to the brilliant work of ECCO.  I am a Professor of Gastroenterology at Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in the UK.

Nick Powell

My clinical practice is centred on IBD and a weekly tertiary clinic at the Royal Marsden Hospital, where I see patients with immune-checkpoint inhibitor-induced colitis. I also lead the commercial clinical trial portfolio at Imperial. I started off my academic career in IBD in 2008 when I undertook a PhD at King’s College London, studying the transcriptional regulation of IL22-producing innate lymphoid cells in IBD. I carried on this work postdoctorally with a 5-year Wellcome Trust Fellowship. I set up my own lab (www.powelllab.com) in the Faculty of Medicine at the Hammersmith Hospital campus in 2019. Our work focusses on the molecular and cellular regulation of intestinal inflammation, spanning preclinical disease models, organoids and translational work with human samples, directed towards precision medicine and experimental medicine. During the pandemic we led important work (VIP and CLARITY-IBD) in understanding how immunosuppressive medications impact immune responses to infection and vaccination in IBD. We currently have active research programmes investigating the immunopathology of fistulising Crohn’s Disease (Helmsley Trust), probing the host–microbe interactome in immune checkpoint colitis (Wellcome Discovery award) and harnessing multi-omic molecular stratification in IBD (AstraZeneca). I have several leadership roles, including Deputy Chair of the British Society of Gastroenterology Clinical Research Group in IBD, lead for Imperial’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Digestive Diseases theme, chairman of the British Society for Gastroenterology guidance on the management of immune-checkpoint inhibitor-induced enterocolitis and member of the British Government’s COVID-19 Independent Advisory Group, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care. I am a steering committee member for several commercial and investigator-led clinical trials. Outside of work I love to travel with my family, and am an avid Aston Villa supporter.  

Meet Harry Sokol

I am a Professor in the Gastroenterology Department of Saint-Antoine Hospital (APHP, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France), the co-director of the Microbiota, Gut & Inflammation team (INSERM Sorbonne Université) and group leader in the Micalis Institute (INRAE). I am the coordinator of the Paris Center for Microbiome Medicine, current president of the French group of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation and head of the APHP Fecal Microbiota Transplantation Center.

Harry Sokol

I have been interested in IBD pathogenesis since very early in my career. During a Master’s degree in microbiology, I contributed to the initial description of the IBD-associated alterations in microbiota composition. Following an MD degree in Gastroenterology, I did a PhD and described the role of the pivotal commensal bacterium Faecalibacterium prausnitzii in gut homeostasis and in IBD. Following a 2-year assistant professor position in the Gastroenterology Department of the Saint-Antoine Hospital (APHP, Paris, France), I moved to the laboratory of Professor Ramnik Xavier in Boston as a post-doctoral research fellow in order to improve my skills on the host side of IBD pathogenesis, mainly regarding immunology, genetics and bioinformatics. I worked on several IBD-associated genes and particularly on the role of caspase recruitment domain 9 (CARD9) in colitis settings. Currently, besides clinical activity mainly dedicated to IBD, my main interest is basic and translational research with a focus on deciphering gut microbiota–host interactions in health and disease in order to understand their role in pathogenesis better and to develop innovative treatments. I served on the Research Board of the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) between 2017 and 2022 and have been a member of the International Organization for the Study of IBD (IOIBD) since 2022. I am thrilled to join SciCom and contribute to the success of ECCO!

Posted in ECCO News, SciCom, Committee News, Volume 19, Issue 1