ISSCR 2012 Program Highlights

Co-sponsored by the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University

Overview

The ISSCR held its first annual meeting in Asia as more than 3,500 attendees joined us in Yokohama, Japan for the ISSCR 10th Annual Meeting, co-sponsored by the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University.

We would like to thank the 2012 Annual Meeting Program Committee, chaired by Dr. Lawrence S. B. Goldstein, for putting together a strong and diverse scientific program that covered a wide range of topics and presenters. In all, this year’s program featured seven plenary sessions, 20 concurrent tracks spread over four separate sessions and several other networking and educational sessions. By more than doubling the number of abstract-selected speakers this year, more scientists were given the opportunity to give oral presentations than ever before. In addition, the Program Committee was able to draw on the strength of the local research community, with more than 25 oral presentations given from researchers based in Japan. As a result of a record-number of abstract submissions, more than 1,400 posters were presented in two evening poster receptions. The ISSCR thanks all who participated and extends our congratulations to the winners of the 2012 Junior Investigator Poster Awards (listed below).

Pre-meeting Sessions

Prior to the start of the annual meeting, Industry Wednesday Symposia (IWS) and Focus Sessions offered the opportunity for an in-depth discussion of topical issues in stem cell science. These events helped set the stage for the main program that began Wednesday afternoon. In all, three IWS and two Focus Sessions were held. The ISSCR thanks BD Biosciences, Thermo Scientific and PerkinElmer/Summit Pharmaceuticals International for participating in the IWS sessions and the ISSCR Ethics and Public Policy Committee and the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine for organizing the Focus Sessions.

Plenary and Concurrent Program

The ISSCR 10th Annual Meeting opened with the Presidential Symposium, which was entitled “Early Life Decision” and featured four keynote talks focused on the science behind early fate decisions and reprogramming cells back to a pluripotent state. These included talks by some of the top names in the field of cellular reprogramming: Rudolf Jaenisch, Austin Smith, John Gurdon and Kazutoshi Takahashi, the lead author on the seminal papers describing the creation of iPSCs. Before the first of these talks, the ISSCR was pleased to award the 2012 ISSCR Public Service Award to Rob and Cheryl McEwen in recognition of their extraordinary support and advocacy for stem cell research and innovation.

This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the ISSCR, and we were honored by the presence of their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan at a ceremony commemorating that milestone. The ceremony was also attended by the Mayor of Yokohama, the Governor of the Kanagawa Prefecture and the Senior Vice President of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, all of whom offered words of welcome and support for stem cell research. The Emperor and Empress were escorted by incoming ISSCR President Shinya Yamanaka and were welcomed by ISSCR President Fred H. Gage. During the ceremony, founder Leonard Zon presented a 10-year history of the ISSCR.

In addition to the ISSCR Public Service Award, two further awards were presented throughout the course of the meeting. The second annual McEwen Award for Innovation was presented to Rudolf Jaenisch, who was recognized for his pioneering discoveries in the genetic and epigenetic control of development, which have profoundly impacted the future potential of embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent cells for use in cell therapies. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh-ISSCR Outstanding Young Investigator Award was presented to Cédric Blanpain for his research on stem cell fate decisions during development and their relation to the formation and relapse of cancer.

This year’s final plenary session opened with an address from President-Elect Shinya Yamanaka, who shared his vision for the ISSCR in the upcoming year. The meeting closed with the fifth annual Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture, which was given by Fiona Watt, who provided an excellent presentation of her recent research into the regulation of epidermal stem cell fate decisions by intrinsic and extrinsic signaling. This work has significant implications in the maintenance of epidermal tissue and in the development of skin cancer.

Following the annual meeting, the ISSCR offered a Public Symposium in conjunction with the Japan Science and Technology Agency and the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Entitled “Using the ‘Cutting Edge’ to Access Cellular Programs – iPS Cells and Our Future,” the event featured presentations by Sir Ian Wilmut and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka followed by a moderated discussion of the potential of iPS and reprogramming technologies. The ISSCR would like to especially thank Rieko Takahashi and Yuko Okayama at the Miraikan Museum for their roles in making this a successful event, including arranging for live, simultaneous translation of the event into Japanese and English.

This recap provides only a brief overview of the events at this year’s meeting in Yokohama. An in-depth scientific report on the science presented at the meeting will appear in the ISSCR pages of Cell Stem Cell in October.