Message from the President: 2017 Year in Review

  • 6 December, 2017

Hans At Podium

The ISSCR celebrated its 15th year as a global voice for stem cell research, and our efforts and activities in 2017 reflect the key role the society plays in advancing the field. Over the past year the Society actively advocated on behalf of members in the policy and regulatory arenas, provided resources for the public through our website, A Closer Look at Stem Cells, and continued to provide a global forum for scientists to gather and share their research at our annual meeting in Boston and in two international symposia, in Basel, Switzerland, and Guangzhou, China.

Underlying the Society’s mission are the fundamental principles defined in the 2016 Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation, which have never been more important as research moves rapidly toward the clinic. The guidelines underscore key ISSCR principles of scientific and ethical integrity, transparency, and accuracy in communications, all of which are fundamental to our work. They also underpin our outreach to public audiences, policy makers, regulatory agencies, clinicians, and other stakeholders.

Following are some of the highlights from 2017, and a few notes about the year ahead:

Policy & Advocacy
A key area of focus for the ISSCR is the regulation of cell therapies and regenerative medicine. In 2017 ISSCR was involved in efforts around the world to advocate for and influence regulatory and legislative efforts. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stepped up efforts to clarify its regulatory oversight role regarding these products. The ISSCR responded favorably to the FDA announcement of a renewed regulatory focus and direction, and also applauded new guidance announced in November of 2017, that provides transparency about the legal status of stem cell interventions in the U.S.

Efforts to revise and update regulatory oversight has also been underway in India, and we have reports of efforts in China, and in Canada. Where possible, the ISSCR advocates for rigorous standards in translation of stem cell science to the clinic, and the important role regulatory bodies can play.

The global marketing and sale of unproven stem cell interventions is of major concern to the ISSCR, and a focus of the Policy Committee, chaired by ISSCR past president Sean Morrison. In comments to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, the ISSCR advocated for regulation of autologous cell and tissue based products. We were pleased to see the regulatory oversight changes announced this fall in Australia.

The ISSCR has also been involved in efforts to protect fundamental scientific research such as fetal tissue research. Advocating that it is essential for biomedical advances, the ISSCR developed and circulated a white paper outlining benefits of this research in several disease areas. We also published an opinion editorial in STAT describing why fetal tissue is critical to medical advances going forward.

Scientific Education & Awareness
Throughout the year, the ISSCR uses a variety of channels to promote awareness of key scientific and clinical developments and their potential or actual impact. We highlight advances in stem cell research to the media, and share science important to the field as well as that published by our members, particularly through Twitter, where many of our 9500 followers find and retweet stem cell news. The ISSCR was mentioned in nearly 3500 news articles last year.

The ISSCR website, A Closer Look at Stem Cells, helps with educational outreach to public audiences, providing accurate, vetted information about stem cell research and its translation to medicine. Relaunched in 2016, the site was visited by 45-thousand people in 2017. We continue to build content relevant to patients and those considering participating in clinical trials.SCRcoverDEC.tif

The ISSCR journal, Stem Cell Reports, celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2017, already achieving an impact factor of 7.3. Since the first edition in June 2013, the journal has published 852 articles, including 273 in 2017.

Promoting Scientific Discovery
The ISSCR annual meeting is a premier event in the field, with more than 3900 attendees, speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, and media from more than 60 countries in 2017. The breadth of the field was represented in the scientific program that included around 200 talks (112 from oral abstracts), and a moving presentation by Sanford Greenberg of End Blindness by 20/20, focusing on the importance of this research for patients.

For the first time, we held a Clinical Advances in Stem Cells (CASC) program at the meeting, focused on research moving toward the clinic in three disease areas: immune-oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, and ocular conditions; more than 200 people attended. The CASC complemented the Workshop on Clinical Translation, with practical advice on completing an Investigational New Drug (IND) application. The meeting exhibition hall in 2017 featured 152 companies exhibiting and demonstrating the latest tools, technologies, and other resources to advance science. 

Guangzhou Speaker

International Symposia held in Basel and Guangzhou expanded the high quality scientific programming to audiences in three continents in 2017. In 2018, the ISSCR will partner with the European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy to co-host its annual meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, 16-19 October.

As an ISSCR member, you are key to these efforts and others undertaken throughout the year to move the field forward and advance research that can one day transform human health. We encourage you to get involved and help grow and underscore the voice of stem cell scientists around the world.

Contact us with your thoughts and comments at Don’t forget to register and submit an abstract for ISSCR 2018 in Melbourne, Australia, 20-23 June. See you there!

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