2018 ISSCR Year in Review

  • 5 December, 2018

Stem cell science and regenerative medicine has made great progress in 2018, with significant clinical trials underway in several research areas, and advances in understanding that are illuminating new research pathways.

The role of the ISSCR in supporting the research and its responsible translation to the clinic has never been more important. I want to highlight for you some of ISSCR’s work throughout the year that I believe helps advance science, gives voice to our members, and sustains this ever-evolving field.

Advocating for Science
The ISSCR advocates for science around the world based on the foundational principles laid out in our Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation. In 2018, we reached out to officials in Australia, India, Hong Kong, Canada, and Mexico to encourage adoption of regulatory oversight such as that clarified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late 2017. Through our Public Policy Committee, we continue to offer assistance to the international community to help ensure responsible regulatory oversight of cell-based products.ITER Meeting 11 April 2018

Earlier this year, several ISSCR members met directly with policy makers to advocate for basic science funding and support for fetal tissue research. In Europe, as Parliament considered Horizon Europe, Michele De Luca and Peter Coffey joined Eric Anthony, the ISSCR Policy Director, in meeting with a Parliamentary Committee to underscore the importance of funding the most promising and rigorous research. Later in the year, Arnold Kriegstein visited Washington, DC to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and talk about the importance of fetal tissue research.

A long-standing ISSCR priority has been support for fetal tissue research, and in 2018 we rigorously defended its importance as a gold standard reference and described its key role in developmental research. An ISSCR-led coalition of 64 scientific, medical, and patient organizations wrote to the U.S. Congress opposing a proposal to restrict federal funding for fetal tissue research. We were successful in that that effort, however the issue was raised again by opposition groups questioning the need for this research. The ISSCR responded in September to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement of a review of all federal contracts using fetal tissue, and Martin Pera represented the ISSCR research community at an HHS listening session. Later this year, Sally Temple will testify before Congress in support of fetal tissue research, and we will send another letter to lawmakers and Secretary Azar from the coalition.

Reaching Public and Scientific Audiences
ISSCR communications ensure that our voice is heard in news and policy discussions relevant to our work. In interviews with reporters, statements shared on the website and in social media, and through other channels, the ISSCR shares our policy and other positions with important audiences. More than 3000 news articles mentioned the ISSCR last year on a wide variety of topics, such as ’Snake Oil’ Stem Cell Clinics Peddle False Hope for High Prices; Fetal Tissue Research is the Victim of Special Interest Politics and FDA Cracks Down on Stem Cell Clinics But Patients Are Still At Risk.

A Closer Look at Stem Cells, our public-facing website, provides basic information about cells types and research areas, including how science is translated to medicine. The site is a reliable source for scientific and patient groups explaining science to their audiences. A monthly blog on the site highlights promising research and answers questions about terms and technologies. The site was visited by more than 300 thousand people in 2018.

The ISSCR journal, Stem Cell Reports, enters its sixth year in 2019 with a new editor-in-chief, Martin Pera. Building on the platform’s reputation for sharing excellent science, Martin will bring a new vision for the journal that reinforces its relationship with the society and draws on members to provide perspectives, editorial pieces, and other features. Since the first edition in June 2013, the journal has published more than 2000 articles, including 269 in 2018.

Sharing Scientific Discovery
Three-thousand stem cell scientists from 52 countries convened in Melbourne, Australia, to share great science and network with colleagues at ISSCR 2018. The meeting featured more than 150 oral presentations and nearly 1400 posters on topics across the breadth of the field. Two major themes throughout the meeting were developments in single cell analysis, and advances in clinical translation.

In 2019, the annual meeting will feature more abstract-selected speakers than ever before, with the goal of showcasing new talent in both plenary and concurrent sessions. Register and submit an abstract now, and make plans to join us 26-29 June in Los Angeles. Also next year, we’re looking forward to hosting international symposia in Amsterdam 20-22 February, South Korea 26-27 September, and Toronto, 6-8 November.

We appreciate the important role ISSCR members play throughout the year in advancing research with the potential to transform human health. Contact us with your thoughts and comments at isscr@isscr.org.

Douglas Melton
ISSCR President, 2018-2019