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ISSCR 2013 Show Preview: From stem to stern
BOSTON—As the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) hovers on the brink of its 12th anniversary next year, this year's event may already be heralding a kind of tipping point for stem cell research, suggests Dr. George Daley, the program chair of the ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting, to be held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from June 12 to 15.
One sign of how far and how fast stem cell research is coming along, Daley says, can be seen in some changes to the event this year, both intentional and organic, such as what he refers to as "a lot of new names on the program" instead of just familiar faces of the past. There is also, he notes, a stronger technology element in the program this year, adding, "we have also worked closely with our Industry Committee to represent what is happening in industry and to encourage industry participation in the meeting."
Why more technological attention this year than in the past?
"The big breakthrough over about the past six years has been reprogramming—taking adult somatic cells and turning them back into pluripotent cells. Building on top of that is the notion that you can change an adult cell into another cell," Daley tells ddn by way of explaining the shift. "A big challenge of drug development has been testing drugs in human models of disease. Drugs tend to be tested in animal models and don't get exposed to human tests until clinical trials, when many of them then fail. But we're seeing increasing use of reprogrammed iPS cells to model human disease. So there is a whole interface of drug screening and human disease modeling that people are going to hear a lot about at the annual meeting."
"Plus, there is just a lot of new technology for manipulating cells now," he says. "People are using light to change the orientation of cells, there is new nuclease technology for changing genes in target cells and so much more—we also have a whole session on gene transfer and gene therapy, which is an area that is really coming of age."
Another sign of stem cell research's coming of age is seen in the poster presentations for the annual meeting. In February, the ISSCR had already highlighted the fact on its website that more than 2,000 abstracts had been received for the poster sessions, marking a new record for submissions for the meeting.
The poster sessions add great depth and breadth of scientific exchange to the meeting, Daley says, and in recognition of their importance and growth, this year the ISSCR has added "Poster Briefs" to the program, which is, Daley says, "an expansion of our very popular one-minute poster teasers."
Each concurrent session will include three very brief presentations that highlight exceptional abstracts, sparking conversation to be continued in the evening poster sessions.
"This has really become a very broad meeting, and we had over 2,000 poster submissions and something like 30 or more invited speakers," Daley says. "We ended up choosing almost a hundred speakers from the abstract submissions so that they could take the stage. We want to keep featuring more junior researchers and have more diversity, too, in terms of both the scientific coverage and international representation. We're increasing the use of poster teasers, and presenters will have a couple minutes on the stage. It's a great way for people to raise interest in the posters by having a chance to briefly present them to the broader audience of attendees."
Related to that program addition, which benefits many younger researchers, is a general increase of focus on scientists who are in the early stages of their career.
"Another new thing for the annual meeting, which is a response to requests from members and meeting attendees, is more mentoring of junior scientists," Daley says of this shift in focus. "We have a whole session to bring in junior scientists so they can have a provocative Q&A session with senior scientists."
The ISSCR's annual meeting is reportedly the largest international interdisciplinary forum dedicated to stem cell science. The meeting brings typically together more than 3,500 of the world's stem cell researchers each year—though Daley thinks it could end up exceeding that mark this year—to discuss emerging science in what has become a fast-paced field.
"This started out a small event—almost a workshop, really—of a couple hundred people meeting in Washington, D.C., and now it's a huge convention with probably over 4,000 people who will be attending and a huge diversity of areas covered," Daley says.
Looking toward subsequent annual meetings, he adds, "What I see happening in the future for what is covered is the technology base becoming more relevant to pharma. I'm already seeing a trend of pharmas starting internal research programs as they realize that the interface of stem cell technology and drug development is powerful. We'll be seeing more and more drug development and cell therapy programs highlighted at the meeting, because I think that's where the field is going—more toward therapeutic applications."
New Concepts and Tools for Advancing Stem Cell Research and Therapeutic Approach
Industry Wednesday Symposium
June 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Boston Convention and Exhibition Center
The ISSCR provides the opportunity for symposia on this day, as part of the exhibition portion of the annual meeting, to be sponsored by companies and present "topical scientific issues in the field of stem cell science as framed by industry leaders."
As of late April, only one such symposium was listed on the ISSCR website, titled "New Concepts and Tools for Advancing Stem Cell Research and Therapeutic Approach" and to be presented by Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
As noted by Thermo Fisher Scientific, "stem cell research has emerged as one of the most promising areas of medical science, attracting unprecedented public support and interest. In line with our company's commitment to advancing stem cell research, scientists from Thermo Fisher Scientific will present its newest culture systems for generating, expanding, characterizing and preserving stem cells. "
The significant savings in labor and cost, coupled with what is reportedly "above-industry-standard performance of the systems," will result in meaningful outcomes in the core of daily research, according to the company.
In addition, speakers from industry and academia will use the event as a chance to exchange ideas about their recent discoveries.
8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
Reagents for microRNA functional analysis in stem cells
Emily Anderson, Ph.D., senior scientist, Gene Modulation, Thermo Fisher Scientific
9:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
Optimized expansion and characterization of human pluripotent stem cells without compromising pluripotency
Amy Sinor-Anderson, Ph.D., senior research scientist, Labware and Specialty Plastics, Thermo Fisher Scientific
9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Past problems and future challenges of human pluripotency
Hidemasa Kato, Ph.D., Saitama Medical University, Research Center for Genomic Medicine
10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Support cell therapy for CNS: Reprograming for repair
Chris Pröschel, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center, Department of Biomedical Genetics
11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
The design and capabilities of the Upstate Stem Cell cGMP Facility
Michael J. Fiske, executive director, Upstate Stem Cell cGMP Facility, University of Rochester Medical Center
11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Cold-chain and logistical challenges of cell-based therapies in clinical trials through commercialization
Dan O'Donnell, associate director, Cell Therapy Logistics, Fisher BioServices
Learning objectives and goals of the symposium
Scientists and researchers from academia, industry and government research whose work involves cell biology and stem cell research.
The Charles River Basin, which is almost entirely a work of human design, essentially marks the center of Boston's metropolitan area, encompasses 19 miles of shore and includes more 20 parks and other natural areas. CREDIT: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
Each year, the ISSCR presents several awards in recognition of "outstanding work and promise" in the fields of stem cells and regenerative medicine. At the ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting in Boston, the society will present the McEwen Award for Innovation, the ISSCR-University of Pittsburgh Outstanding Young Investigator Award and the ISSCR Public Service Award.
McEwen Award for Innovation
James A. Thomson, Ph.D.
This $100,000 award recognizes original thinking and groundbreaking research pertaining to stem cells or regenerative medicine that opens new avenues of exploration toward the understanding or treatment of human disease or affliction.
The recipient of the 2013 McEwen Award for Innovation is Dr. James A. Thomson for his work that reproducibly isolated pluripotent cell lines from human blastocysts, opening the door for the study of human embryonic stem cells and revealing new possibilities for developing cell-based therapies, disease models and reagents for toxicity testing. The ISSCR will present Thomson with the award during the Presidential Symposium on Wednesday, June 12.
ISSCR-University of Pittsburgh Outstanding Young Investigator Award
Marius Wernig, M.D., Ph.D.
This award recognizes the exceptional achievements of an investigator in the early part of his or her independent career in stem cell research.
The recipient of the 2013 ISSCR-University of Pittsburgh Outstanding Young Investigator Award is Dr. Marius Wernig in recognition of his research demonstrating the ability of previously specified cells to be reprogrammed directly to other, distantly related cell types, which has transformed the field of cellular reprogramming. Wernig will receive his award and present his lecture during Plenary VI on Saturday, June 15.
ISSCR Public Service Award
Hiromitsu Ogawa and Betty Jean Crouch Ogawa
This award was launched in 2011 to recognize people for their outstanding contributions of public service to the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine during the previous year. Nominees for this award, supported by past and present members of the ISSCR board of directors, can come from one of the many fields serving the stem cell research community, including academia, government, philanthropy and patient advocacy.
The third annual ISSCR Public Service Award will be presented to Hiromitsu Ogawa and Betty Jean Crouch Ogawa in recognition of what ISSCR calls "their extraordinary support of stem cell research" in Japan and the United States, including Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka and the Gladstone Institute, as well as their work with the ISSCR Global Advisory Council. ISSCR will present the award to them at the start of Plenary II on Wednesday, June 12.
With historic Faneuil Hall as its centerpiece—a 1742 gift to the city from Peter Faneuil, Boston's wealthiest merchant at the time—the Faneuil Hall Marketplace consists of four buildings: Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. The quartet of historic buildings with their dozens of shopping and dinging options, are all set around a cobblestone promenade where jugglers, magicians and musicians often entertain the passers-by. CREDIT: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
Eric Lander of the Broad Institute
Anne McLaren Memorial Lecturer
Elaine Fuchs of Rockefeller University
Ernest McCulloch Memorial Lecturer
George Q. Daley of Children's Hospital Boston
Presidential Symposium Speakers
James Thomson of the Morgridge Institute for Research
Edith Heard of the Institut Curie in France
Douglas A. Melton of Harvard University
Richard A. Young of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Concurrent Session Topics
The historical site of the Battle of Lexington and Concord on the first battle day in the Revolutionary War, Boston's Concord Bridge is shown in autumn in this photo. CREDIT: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
To go to part two of our ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting pre-show coverage, click here.