A Moment of Reflection and Inspiration

  • 9 December, 2020
Christine Mummery

This week we saw 90-year-old Margaret Keenen receive the first dose of an approved coronavirus vaccine less than a week after the United Kingdom became the first country to give its approval – and just shy of nine months since the pandemic was officially declared. The accelerated timeline of vaccine development has been a formidable race against the odds. It is a moment of reflection and inspiration.

As research scientists, we are no strangers to defying the odds, and the rapid advances in our field continue to push the bounds of what we may have thought possible even a decade ago. We have seen our community quickly pivot to apply stem cell research to a new global threat from SARS-CoV-2 and have provided a unique and widely recognized platform for our members to network and share new data. Meetings will continue through the spring of next year at the urging of our members, who are exploring how the virus affects major systems in our bodies. This is a proud moment for science, with the value of research never more globally apparent and a time to reflect on how we apply both our research and ourselves. It seems only fitting that the ISSCR host an event that not only looks back on a decade of promising scientific advances but explores where our field is heading for the next 10 years and beyond.

At VISION2030, ISSCR Board members will interview scientific founders and leaders of seven biotechnologies companies in the cell therapy and regenerative medicine space. Each of these interviews will reveal new insights on translating scientific discoveries and building a business venture. Hearing from these trailblazers may inspire us to consider new research paths and embrace unexpected collaborations. I am so pleased to have put this program together with an incredible organizing committee that includes Hans Clevers, Douglas Melton, Deepak Srivastava, and Leonard Zon, all leaders in your Society. I am equally delighted that we will focus the second day of our meeting on career development. We have designed sessions to help our community of scientists understand what a career in industry may look like and to discuss the scientific training needed as more research enters the clinic.

Similarly, moments like these are what ignite the future generation of scientists – and a moment for our Society to nurture that next generation. A few weeks ago, the ISSCR Education Committee launched a comprehensive education resource, Core Concepts in Stem Cell Biology: Syllabus and Learning Guide, to teach the foundations of stem cell biology. This new resource could not have come at a better time to support educators who are teaching future stem cell scientists.

The comprehensive Syllabus is available to the entire scientific community – which was important to our membership. It comprises eight learning modules and annotated foundational papers to fill a void in resources for educators teaching undergraduate and early graduate students and medical students. If you have not downloaded it yet, I encourage you to take a look and share with your friends and colleagues as a supplemental teaching resource.

I am optimistic about the year ahead for science, the ISSCR, and for our members as we remain keenly focused on how to ensure we support the field, continue to offer access to exceptional scientific content, and facilitate opportunities to broaden collaborations and new opportunities for scientific exchange in the year to come.