The ISSCR Annual Meetings are the largest stem cell conferences in the world, known for featuring outstanding science. However, an underrecognized yet equally important aspect of the society is its initiatives to advance the field. Behind the scenes, 22 Board Members, 15 committees, and other volunteers are working to develop and implement important initiatives and resources that enable, support, and promote excellence in stem cell science and its applications to human health.
Scientific Support & Resources
The very foundation of the ISSCR is scientific excellence. Accordingly, many ongoing activities of the society are intended to help stem cell scientists excel in their search, including online scientific webinars, sharing information on funding opportunities, and announcing breaking stem cell news. The ISSCR also publishes Stem Cell Reports, the society’s official journal reporting high quality peer-reviewed open access scientific studies, resources, commentaries, and perspectives that address important scientific, clinical, and ethical issues.
As the field matures and clinical trials involving stem cells progress forward, the society and its Clinical Translation Committee are developing resources to help clinicians navigate the field and advise patients on the latest developments. These include updated Disease Fact Sheets on the current states of cell-based therapies by disease, and the recently released ISSCR guide "Stem Cell-Based Clinical Trials: Practical Advice for Physicians and Ethics/Institutional Review Committees," designed to assist clinicians by highlighting fundamental questions when considering running or reviewing early phase, cell-based clinical trials.
Providing Research Standards, Policy Initiatives, and a Voice for Stem Cell Researchers
Historically, the ISSCR has been at the forefront of establishing global standards for the stem cell field. The 2016 Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation are a well-established set of standards that have been adopted by researchers, institutions, and journals around the world. The guidelines underscore the importance of scientific rigor, oversight, and transparency widely held by stem cell researchers, and the ISSCR continues to advocate for the adherence to these principles in basic, translational, and clinical research.
Since governmental policies can have profound consequences on stem cell research, the ISSCR and its Public Policy Committee are continually monitoring global developments and engaging with regulatory bodies and agencies around the world to adopt responsible pro-stem cell policies. These international advocacy efforts are aimed at increasing biomedical research funding, defending responsible stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell and fetal tissue research, and urging the adoption of appropriate policies regulating unproven stem cell therapies. In support of this latter effort, the society recently released a professional Informed Consent Standard for Stem Cell-Based Interventions Performed Outside of Formal Clinical Trials meant to help ensure that patients are properly informed when considering unproven stem cell-based medical interventions.
Career Resources and Development
The future of the stem cell field will be determined by the next generation of stem cell scientists. The ISSCR aims to help them find that future by offering a wide range of career development resources for researchers. The ISSCR Junior Investigator Committee provides an “Early Group Leader Luncheon” where new independent investigators can meet with ISSCR Board Members to glean tips on everything to do with leading a lab, as well as a “Meet The Expert Luncheons” where students and postdocs meet with leaders in the field to acquire research and career advice.
Finding the next step or a new step in careers can also be a daunting task for young and seasoned researchers alike. The ISSCR strives to illuminate career paths by providing:
- “Career Panel Luncheons” where a panel of experts lead an in-depth discussion on career paths
- Online career development videos
- Onsite Job Match at meetings
- A year-round Job Board
The ISSCR also recognizes outstanding achievements and research potential in the field of stem cell research around the world through eight different ISSCR awards.
Public Outreach and Patient Resources
The ISSCR is continually producing new resources for the public on its website A Closer Look at Stem Cells to inform the public about stem cells and their potential applications to various diseases, including a monthly blog that strives to make various topics of stem cell research more accessible. Importantly, the website also provides updated information to protect patients from clinics offering unproven and unapproved stem cell “therapies,” including the ISSCR Patient Handbook, Nine Things to Know About Stem Cell Treatments, Stem Cell Treatments: What to Ask, and How to Report Stem Cell Clinics.
Outside of meetings, the ISSCR provides resources for scientists, clinicians, and the public. But it’s more than resources— the society’s activities, policy and advocacy efforts, and development of international standards provide a vision for moving the field forward responsibly and with purpose. Stem cell biology will alter the paradigm by which we treat human disease, but it will require careful yet urgent stewardship. The ISSCR is designed to provide this leadership at an international level and will serve to accelerate the transformation to curative approaches.
ISSCR President, 2019-2020