ISSCR 2017 Program Highlights

Co-sponsored by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI)

Overview

The 2017 ISSCR Annual Meeting, held in Boston, MA (U.S.) 14-17 June, 2017, showcased the latest basic discoveries, technological innovations and translational stem cell research. Drawing nearly 4,000 scientists from over 55 countries, the annual meeting is truly an international event that brings together stem cell professionals to share their science, network with colleagues and set the foundation for future discoveries.

The meeting really begins with the planning committee. The dedicated work of this group, chaired by Elaine Fuchs, began over a year in advance of the meeting and led to the development of a comprehensive scientific program that highlighted the diversity of stem cell research. In the 200 talks featured in the plenary and concurrent sessions, which included 112 talks selected from oral abstracts, the science spanned the breadth of stem cell research - from the role of stem cells in the development of model organisms to leading translational research that has resulted in stem cell-derived therapies that have advanced into clinical trials. The science and technology wasn’t confined to the lecture halls as the exhibition hall was a hub of activity with nearly 1,400 posters and 152 companies exhibiting the latest innovations in research technology.

The meeting would not have been possible without our co-sponsor, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). In addition to their support, the HSCI was instrumental in planning the public symposium entitled, “Innovation, Incubation, Investment: The Landscape of Stem Cell Research in Boston.” Moderated by Jim Braude of WGBH Boston, the forum featured HSCI Principal Faculty Paola Arlotta, Derrick Rossi, Kevin Eggan, and Harald Ott who discussed their innovative stem cell research.

Pre-meeting Education

On Tuesday, 13 June, the ISSCR showcased pre-meeting educational sessions that are part of the strong and growing translational science programming available at the annual meeting. The Workshop on Clinical Translation, in its third year, was focused on “How to Get from the Bench to the Clinic: Practical Advice for Completing an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application.” That was followed by the Clinical Advances in Stem Cells, a new program that explored the current clinical landscape, advances in cell therapies, and how stem cell research is being applied in the clinic. Consisting of three independent, parallel tracks: immuno-oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, and ocular conditions, each track was designed for practicing clinicians as well as scientists interested in translational science and the current clinical landscape.

Focus Sessions

The opening morning of the annual meeting began with the focus sessions, which have become a staple of the opening day. These in-depth forums, independently-organized by academic and/or industry groups explore the promise of stem cell science and add to the programming of the annual meeting. This year there were seven focus sessions which included sessions on the ethics of organoid technology and how to manufacture a cell product. 

Plenary and Concurrent Program

The crowd was officially welcomed to the annual meeting during the Presidential Symposium. Outgoing president Sally Temple opened this plenary session and highlighted some of the accomplishments of the society during the past year. The symposium, “A decade of human iPSCS from discovery to clinic,” featured presentations by Rudolf Jaenisch, Shinya Yamanaka, and Joanna Wysocka.

During the annual meeting, awards were given by the ISSCR in recognition of outstanding contribution to stem cell research. The McEwen Award for Innovation was presented to Elaine Fuchs in recognition of her contribution to the understanding of skin stem cells and their application to regenerative medicine, genetic syndromes, and cancers. Jayaraj Rajagopal, recipient of the ISSCR Dr. Susan Lim Award for Outstanding Young Investigator has established himself as a young leader in the field of lung stem cells and lung repair, working with both mouse and human models. John Dick presented the ISSCR Tobias Award Lecture. Dick has been a leader in the areas of normal stem cell and cancer stem cell biology over the last 30 years, and his discoveries have led to significant advances in cancer biology that have opened new areas of inquiry. Finally, George Daley was presented with the ISSCR Public Service Award. Daley has long been involved in promoting and upholding rigorous standards for the field and he initiated and played key roles in the formulation of three sets of ISSCR guidelines.

Other notable presentations included the Ernest McCulloch Memorial Lecture given by Margaret Goodell, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz who gave the Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture and Adrian Thrasher who presented the John McNeish Memorial Lecture.

Networking and Career Development Events

The annual meeting offers far more than just scientific presentations. There were multiple opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior investigators to shape their future with networking and career development events. The Early Career Group Leader Luncheon, designed for junior investigators running a laboratory, explored the manuscript review process and the realities of getting published. For graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the Meet the Experts Luncheon was an opportunity to have small group conversations with leaders in academics and industry and the Junior Investigator Career Panel entitled, “Translate your idea” offered a diverse panel of scientists and physicians who have created their own venture and brought their ideas to the clinic.

ISSCR 2017 Poster Awards

The ISSCR also recognized the research of young scientists, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, with the annual poster awards. Winners of this year’s awards were:
• Ole Wiskow (Harvard University, U.S.)
• Diego Balboa Alonso (University of Helsinki, Finland)
• Ino Karemaker (Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Netherlands)
• Wenqian Song (Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, China) 

Final Plenary Session

The excitement of the annual meeting drew to a close with the final plenary session “Frontiers of cell therapy.” This session featured presentations on potential therapies in development for immunodeficiencies, diabetes, neurological disorders, and retinal disease. The keynote address of the session featured George Church, who discussed the use and application of technologies for reading and writing ‘omes’.

The ISSCR thanks everyone for attending the ISSCR 2017 Annual Meeting and making it so successful. We look forward to seeing you at the ISSCR 2018 Annual Meeting in Melbourne Australia!