May 28, 2021

Rohit Loomba, MD, MHSc Rohit Loomba, MD, MHSc

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is one of the biggest unmet needs in hepatology. Liver scientists will come together to discuss the path forward in the AASLD Emerging Topic Conference: Current Challenges in Clinical Management and Drug Development in NASH.

“In one place we will provide information on how to currently diagnose and manage NASH, the direction of drug development, where the field is moving in terms of new therapies for NASH, the key regulatory endpoints, and how we make sure that our drugs achieve that end benefit for our patients in a safe and effective manner,” said Program Co-Chair Rohit Loomba, MD, MHSc. Dr. Loomba is the founding director of the NAFLD Research Center, professor of medicine, and director of hepatology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Anyone interested in NASH should attend the interactive, online conference that will take place June 17–18, he said. Registration is open now.

“Whether you are a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, physician, fellow, trainee, resident, or somebody who is well-versed in NASH as a hepatologist, you are all welcome,” Dr. Loomba said. “This will cater to all of their needs.

“Whether you are a drug developer or a regulator or you are in the biotech industry thinking about how to design a trial or how to conduct a NASH treatment response development program,” he continued, “in two days we will get you up to speed on all of these aspects.”

Translational researchers and clinical investigators will share their progress, review the most recent preclinical and clinical investigations in their respective fields, and promote the rapid emergence of novel and efficient therapeutic options.

NASH-related cirrhosis is the second leading indication for liver transplantation in the U.S., Dr. Loomba said, creating a need for better therapies and better methods of diagnosis.

One billion people worldwide have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is the most common cause of chronic liver disease, he said, and the burden of disease is only increasing due to the rising prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

A session on NASH progression and co-morbidities will address the impact of COVID-19 clinical trial design and participation.

Thirty percent of patients who develop COVID-19 have elevated levels of liver enzymes, Dr. Loomba said. As a result, during the pandemic, more trial participants have had elevated liver enzymes.

“When you already have a chronic liver problem, this can be problematic,” he said. “This is particularly of concern if somebody had cirrhosis of the liver due to fatty liver disease. Then the risk of mortality is pretty high due to COVID. That’s why protection of the vaccine becomes paramount.”

He advocates for all NASH patients and their relatives to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

“COVID-19 severity is much higher in patients who have diabetes, obesity, and NAFLD, therefore we want to make sure our patients are protected,” Dr. Loomba said.

The discussion around COVID-19 also will include actions that reduce the risk of severity of infection among patients with NASH such as improving insulin resistance and increasing exercise.

Live panel discussions will take place throughout the conference, providing a forum to ask questions and interact with a lineup of speakers that taps into diverse expertise from across the country and globe.

Optional 15-minute breakout recordings will be available for OnDemand viewing. Topics include how to take patient history and assessments in the clinic, ordering labs and diagnosing NASH, and diet and exercise counseling for NASH patients.

“This is going to be both state of the art and cutting edge,” Dr. Loomba said. “We were really inspired by the governing board of the AASLD, particularly Dr. Ray Kim and AASLD President Ray Chung, to come up with a format that brings everyone in. Whoever joins in is going to learn from it.”

Registered attendees can earn 9.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits and 9.50 ABIM MOC Points.

“We expect people from all over the world to join because of the virtual format of the conference,” Dr. Loomba said.

Stephen A. Harrison, MD, FAASLD, medical director, Pinnacle Clinical Research, serves as program co-chair.