Behind the Scenes at EASD 2015

Meeting Architect Per-Henrik Groop Reflects on Program

Per-Henrik Groop, MD, DMSc


October 09, 2015

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Hello. My name is Per-Henrik Groop. I am a professor of nephrology at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and I am also the honorary secretary of the EASD, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. The meeting finished just a minute ago. Let me tell you a little bit about what we have done here during this week.

We started on Tuesday morning and now it is Friday afternoon. It has been an exciting week and an exciting program. We covered many topics; there was a lot of novelty in the program, but we also revisited the good old stuff. I am pretty sure that many of you have heard that on Thursday night, we had a great happening here: The EMPA-REG OUTCOME Study[1] results were presented. It was a big event with a lot of people, a lot of excitement, and a lot of expectations. I must say that it was a great event.

People were extremely happy. Why? Because we have been waiting for some good news in this field for a long, long time, and now there is good news. I am pretty sure that you're going to hear a lot about that study. In brief, for the first time in the history of diabetes, we have a glucose-lowering medication that is able to reduce cardiovascular death in the short term in high-risk patients.

We had heard results from many other studies; most of them had been neutral, and the results had been interpreted as not good enough. But that is not true. All the other studies that had been neutral have provided important data that the drugs that we are using to treat patients with diabetes are safe, and that is also very important.[2,3] We might have to wait another few years to see the potential benefit of these medications, but that is another story. Now, we have a new one—the sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitor that provided the positive result—so that is exciting.

This meeting has been about a lot more than the SGLT2 inhibitors and the EMPA-REG OUTCOME Study. We also presented updated and additional analyses of the ELIXA and TECOS data that were first publicized at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) meeting in June this year.

Debates and Novel Topics

We had something special for our meeting: We had debates. I was chairing the exciting debate yesterday morning. A full hall of 4000 people were listening to the competence of giants in the field of insulin resistance. Ele Ferrannini was saying "yes" to the question, "Is insulin resistance always bad for you?" David Matthews from Oxford was saying "no." I can tell you that it was a very entertaining and informative debate.

There is a reason that we have these dogmata debates. I think it was Mark Twain who said that dogmas kill science, and dogmatic thinking is always dangerous. This debate was there to guide people in how to think and to understand that we can think about a topic from difficult angles, and it is difficult to say who is right. We have to understand that polarized views are usually not helpful. People loved it.

This morning, we had another debate, a Michael Berger debate. Unfortunately, I could not be there, but I heard that people were very happy about it. The topic was whether we need fixed combinations of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1) agonists and insulin.

We covered many other topics, too. We had topics on the bionic pancreas, so we also focused on devices. We revisited old stories, such as glucagon, and presented novel data on that. This morning, we had a very interesting symposium on the topic, "Is the brain the new pancreas?" There are new data showing that even the brain is potentially able to produce insulin, so we talked about what that means.

We also had a symposium on the cross-talk between the periphery and the brain, and a symposium on new aspects of lipids and diabetic nephropathy, so I must say that we covered a lot of very interesting topics. This morning, we also had a symposium on food, especially sucrose and fructose, as well as a session called, "There Is No Love Sincerer Than the Love of Food." Last night, we talked about the different diets. I must say that these symposia have been great.

Building a Conference

Let me tell you a little bit about how we build up the program, because I am responsible for it, and of course this is not a one-man show. We have a team of 16 people. The honorary secretary chairs the team of scientists from different areas of diabetes. We invite suggestions for symposia, and then we try to take the best of it. What we usually look for is novelty, innovation, and clinical relevance. We want to provide the best new data that are available out there in a few days. I think that this year, we can be proud of the program.

We don't tend to repeat. We look for novelty and really try to squeeze out what is out there, and people have been very happy this year. That is what I heard so far.

We are already working very hard on next year's program. I would like to invite you all to attend next year's EASD meeting, which will take place September 12-16 in Munich, Germany—a beautiful place and a wonderful venue. See you in Germany next year!


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