ISSCR 2014 Program Highlights

Co-sponsored by STEMCELL Technologies, Inc.

Overview

In June 2014, the ISSCR returned to Canada and was joined by more than 3300 attendees for the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting. While this write-up cannot touch on everything that happened during the meeting, we would like to highlight some of the key events that occurred during our four-plus days in Vancouver.

We thank the 2014 Annual Meeting Program Committee, chaired by Fiona Watt, for their hard work and dedication to developing a far-reaching and diverse scientific program. Significant progress has been made in the translation of stem cell research and its promise towards clinical applications, and this was reflected in dedicated plenary and concurrent sessions that highlighted the successes, challenges and exciting future in this area. In all, a total of seven plenaries, 20 concurrent sessions and three poster receptions provided a robust program encompassing the breadth of the stem cell field. The ISSCR thanks all those who presented their work, and we congratulate the six winners of the Betty Jean Ogawa Memorial Awards for the top-scoring posters (see below).

Public Symposium

We were pleased to co-present with the Stem Cell Network (Canada) and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), “What’s the REAL DEAL with Stem Cell Therapies?”, an event that brought together four panelists for a discussion and debate on the current state of stem cell treatments. Featured were four excellent Stem Cell Shorts videos introducing stem cellsembryonic stem cellsinduced pluripotent stem cells and stem cell tourism. The ISSCR would especially like to thank Lisa Willemse (Stem Cell Network), Stacey Johnson (CCRM) and Ben Paylor (Stem Cell Shorts) for their work in putting together an excellent event.

Pre-meeting  Sessions

The following morning, attendees participated in the Industry Wednesday Symposium presented by Thermo Fisher and five Focus Sessions, offering in-depth discussions of multiple topics including Academia-Industry partnerships, Ethics and the Information Age and how to generate public support for stem cell research funding.

Plenary and Concurrent Program

The ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting was officially opened by ISSCR President Janet Rossant, whose Presidential Symposium focused on the connections between stem cell research and developmental biology and featured presentations by Olivier Pourquie, Brigid Hogan, Gordon Keller and Lorenz Studer. The day concluded with the Ernest McCulloch Memorial Lecture, fittingly given by Connie Eaves, who had trained previously with Dr. McCulloch.

Three major awards were presented throughout the course of the meeting. The McEwen Award for Innovation was presented to Azim Surani in recognition of his research in germ cell specification. The ISSCR Public Service Award was then presented to Paolo Bianco, Elena Cattaneo and Michele De Luca for their championing of rigorous scientific and medical standards during the debate over the availability of unproven stem cell treatments in Italy. On the final day of the meeting, the ISSCR-BD Biosciences Outstanding Young Investigator Award was presented to Valentina Greco in recognition of her groundbreaking studies on skin stem cells, including the first real-time visualization of stem cell divisions in living animals. After accepting the award, she presented an update of the latest work from her laboratory.

Presentations covering the current state of treatments for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, retinal degeneration and spinal cord injury provided glimpses at some of the most promising clinically driven work being done today. Reminding all of those in attendance why the research being done is so important, patient advocate Jennifer Molson gave a moving account of her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, recruitment into a clinical trial for autologous bone marrow transplantation therapy and subsequent recovery. 

A fantastic annual meeting came to a close on Saturday, June 21. The final plenary session featured an address from ISSCR President-Elect Rudolf Jaenisch who touched on his vision for the mission of the ISSCR and the path towards clinical applications of stem cells, including the need to continue to emphasize basic research, iPSC-based disease modeling, in vitro bioengineered tissues and cell-based therapies. Continuing this theme, the Closing Keynote by Susan Lindquist, whose work expertly moved from basic research in yeast to translational research involving stem cells.