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Inspiration From the ISSCR 2019 Annual Meeting: Making Meaningful Impacts in 2019 & 2020

  • 9 August, 2019
As stem cell researchers, we are in a unique position to make real and meaningful impacts in the world. During my time as ISSCR President my goal, beyond supporting ISSCR’s role as the main convener of stem cell science, is to strengthen the society’s voice and influence by expanding on our global policy initiatives and helping foster industry-academic partnerships to accelerate the safe and effective clinical translation of stem cell research.

The ISSCR Annual Meeting in Los Angeles featured many discussions in these areas, and showcased science that is propelling stem cell research forward with the goal of transforming human health.

Expanding Voice in Global Policy
We highlighted our growing policy program at the 2019 meeting by announcing the launch of the Lawrence Goldstein Science Policy Fellowship Program, honoring longtime science policy advocate Larry Goldstein whose outreach to policy makers and the public  reinforces the importance of evidence-based science in society. This fellowship, which expands the ISSCR’s policy program, is an opportunity for those interested in stem cell policy to become involved with the society as ex officio members of the ISSCR Public Policy Committee and participate in the society’s growing policy activities.

The ISSCR held its first Science Advocacy & Communications Seminar where scientists including Dr. Larry Goldstein and former ISSCR presidents Drs. Sean Morrison and Sally wis6 Temple shared their experiences in advocating for responsible stem cell research and communicating progress in the field. In addition, the Ethics Committee held a focus session, New Insights Into Early Human Development, that included a review of current policies pertaining to research involving early human embryos.

Outside of annual meeting events, the society has also begun holding ethics and regulatory forums at international symposia to expand discussions on regulatory policies around the world. The first forum was held during the ISSCR Amsterdam International Symposium in February, 2019, and the next forum, “From Germline Editing to Clinical Trial Design,” focusing on regulatory policies and resulting challenges for the translation of stem cell therapies to the clinic , will take place 6 November in association with the ISSCR Toronto International Symposium.

Promoting Industry-Academic Alliances
Stem cell research is surging ahead toward clinical trials and human applications, with industry and academic research labs increasingly working together to advance science. Building on past-president Douglas Melton’s efforts, I plan to continue promoting collaborations between these two key drivers of novel therapies.

The annual meeting is always fertile ground for forging new relationships and strengthening collaborations between academia and industry. Several focus sessions presented by companies, research institutions, societies, and ISSCR committees  highlighted opportunities for the cross-pollination of ideas and partnerships. Further, the Workshop on Clinical Translation featured leaders from academia, industry, and exhbit4 regulatory agencies, highlighting the society’s commitment to bringing talent from diverse disciplines together to advance the ambitious goals we share. Innovation Showcases and Exhibit Hall interactions further enabled the exchange of state-of-the-art technologies that can accelerate research projects and nurture collaborations.

To foster and enrich industry-academic interactions, the society is also striving to support the exchange and development of talent among and between groups. The Junior Investigator Career Panel and Meet The Experts Luncheon hosted experts from industry and academia to help the development and growth of young researchers across groups. There was also a record number of Job Match participants in LA, in addition to our Job Board that helps people make these connections year-round. 

Exciting Times Ahead in Stem Cell Research
Whether perusing posters or attending plenary presentations, I was heartened by the exceptional level of science presented at the annual meeting in Los Angeles. In fact, this may be the most exciting time for our field as the decades of hard work of stem cell researchers around the world are beginning to precipitate potential therapies that are moving towards and through the clinic’s doors. Throughout the meeting, we received information regarding clinical trials for Macular Degeneration, Parkinson’s Disease, genetic blood disorders, and ALS. We also heard about interesting pre-clinical results foreshadowing upcoming clinical trials for heart disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and many more. The ISSCR continues the discussion of progress in the area of clinical translation 6-8 November, 2019, during the upcoming Toronto International Symposium, From Stem Cell Biology to New Therapies, that will be exclusively dedicated to the clinical translation of stem cell research.

Importantly, none of the translational work would have been possible without the basic science that drives our understanding of cell function in health and disease. As research continues to unravel mechanistic details of developmental and cellular biology, I am eager to witness which areas of basic research will generate new insights that will reveal unexpected applications to human health.

Our work can provide hope where there is hopelessness. It is a crucial time in our field, and we can make an impact in 2019-2020. I can only imagine what discoveries and impact we will learn about at the ISSCR 2020 Annual Meeting.

I look forward to serving as your ISSCR president.

Deepak Srivastava
ISSCR President, 2019-2020