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The “I” in the ISSCR

  • 15 January, 2020

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is just that, an international organization. We work across the globe to promote excellence in stem cell science and applications to human health. The society’s mission-based outreach is broad, and it extends well beyond our signature annual meeting and international symposia. The society, through the leadership of its board of directors, volunteer committees, and staff, advances international initiatives in multiple areas including policy and advocacy, professional standards, building working relationships to stay abreast of emerging areas of interest, and of course educational meetings.

The ISSCR is a voice for scientists in policy and regulatory issues around the world. A priority for the society has been the modernization of global regulations to prevent the premature marketing of unproven therapies. The proliferation of clinics offering unproven ‘stem cell’ interventions over the last five years is a global public health issue. The ISSCR has worked with regulators or provided comment on policies in Canada, Australia, China, Brazil, India, and Mexico, along with the U.S., to advocate that stem cell therapies provided to patients be evidence-based and rigorously tested for safety and efficacy.

The society has also been a leader in developing internationally recognized professional standards and guidelines. The ISSCR first developed international guidelines for stem cell research in 2006, added guidelines for the clinical translation in 2008, and combined them into the Guidelines for Stem Cell Research in Clinical Translation in 2016. Due to recent scientific advances in embryo modeling, organ modeling in culture, gene editing, among other topics, the guidelines are currently being revised with input from scientists, ethicists, and clinicians from around the globe.

These standards have helped the ISSCR establish itself as a trusted voice for scientific and ethical issues and the society has been able to leverage that position to support the international scientific community. This has included providing constructive comments and recommendations on the Horizon Europe proposal and supporting recent Japanese rules that enabled research on chimeric embryos. Recently, the ISSCR advocated that Google create policy to ban advertisements from clinics offering unproven stem cell treatments and other speculative medical interventions. This policy could have widespread ramifications, safeguarding many from misinformation and harmful practices.

The ISSCR has also created an international dialogue around research ethics and oversight. Recently, the ISSCR and the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health held a two-day workshop in Guangzhou, China with a small group of scientists and ethicists from around the world to discuss ethical, scientific, and societal challenges in regenerative medicine. The workshop focused on issues around the regulation and application of gene-editing technology and the oversight of experimental treatments including patient protection and the governance of clinical trials. The meeting fostered an international dialogue and exchange of information and ideas.

The most visible international footprint of the ISSCR is its meetings. The ISSCR Annual Meetings and International Symposia, which facilitate scientific discovery, collaboration, and help advance stem cell research and application, are held throughout the world. In the next two years, the ISSCR will hold its annual meeting in Boston, MA (U.S., 2020) and Hamburg, Germany (2021) and international symposia in Shanghai, China (2020); Paris, France (2020); and Tokyo, Japan (2021), with others in the planning stages. These meetings, which are deliberately held across the world, are typically organized with and highlight regional or local stem cell organizations and make the world’s best stem cell science more accessible. Last September the ISSCR worked with the Korean Society for Stem Cell Research to put on the largest stem cell meeting in Korean history.

Science is a global endeavor that should bridge national boundaries and political ideology.  The ISSCR is a global organization with 4,000 plus members from over 60 countries dedicated to building relationships, advocating for scientists, and advancing stem cell science and its application internationally.