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Major Advances and a 20 Year Celebration Ahead

  • 12 July, 2021
Melissa H. Little

Stem cell research is in a position of major transition. With an increasing number of stem cell products now reaching the market, we are on the brink of seeing stem cell-based products for a wide variety of conditions. These advances must remain founded on the highest quality fundamental stem cell research incorporating the technological advances in imaging, genomics, bioengineering, gene-editing, data science and synthetic biology.

While we have this intense anticipation for stem cell products and therapies, we also have vulnerable patient populations increasingly challenged by the need to separate science from fiction. For nearly 20 years, we as ISSCR members have been the international voice of logic and moderation. As we move closer to delivery, we have an ongoing need to support this progress with appropriate ethics and research integrity.

As incoming President at such a complex time, I feel that it will be critical during my Presidency to re-evaluate the value proposition of the society for you as the members. As a diverse organization with an international membership, it is imperative that we support our members wherever they are and whomever they are. The society provides a voice across scientists, clinicians, business leaders, ethicists, and educators around stem cell discovery and the translation of that science to outcomes. During the coming year, we will embark on a re-evaluation of how the society delivers against our vision and mission, why the members value the activities of the society and how this value proposition may, should, or could change in the post-COVID-19 world. We have introduced new scientific programming and career-focused programs for our community over the last nine months that has helped us remain connected with each other and with advances in our field. I look forward to continuing to build on that success. Indeed, it is an exciting time to think deeper about our support of members, and we are very eager to hear from you.

We also have a need to continue to communicate and actively engage in policy making across the globe. It is for this reason I am excited to see an increase in our focus on public policy within the staff of the society and look forward as we expand to address regulatory issues emerging in our complex field. I am also very proud of the work done by our hard-working experts who have now completed the updated ISSCR Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation. With that update we see increasing opportunity to inform and educate policy makers and the public on the value of responsible and ethical stem cell research and the benefits to human health.

ISSCR Turns 20
Finally, I would note that ISSCR has a big birthday coming up! The ISSCR was initiated in 2002 with an inaugural meeting held in Washington D.C., the brainchild of our first President, Professor Len Zon. Nearly two decades later, the society represents nearly 4,000 members across 67 countries, each of whom makes a personal commitment to upholding the society’s guidelines for responsible and ethical practice. As a member since the beginning, I am proud of the important role that this society plays in supporting quality stem cell science, and I realize that I stand on the shoulders of many who have led the ISSCR before me. It will be a wonderful year of recognition and celebration at the 2022 Annual Meeting in San Francisco 15-18 June 2022.

I am excited for the privilege to serve as President of the ISSCR for the coming year and I look forward to meeting with as many of you as possible, particularly in San Francisco.