Let the Countdown Begin

  • 17 May, 2021
Christine Mummery

We are weeks away from the ISSCR 2021 Annual Meeting, and there is much to anticipate in the meantime. There are so many new programs and announcements coming up for our members and the stem cell community in the next two months, I thought I would take this month’s column to highlight a just a few that I am excited about.

ISSCR Guidelines Launch
Later this month, the eagerly awaited ISSCR Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation will be released. The culmination of almost two years of work from our international Guidelines task force, the update includes new recommendations to address the recent advances involving human embryo research, stem cell-based embryo models, chimeras, organoids, and genome editing. Several members of the Guidelines task force have written commentaries for Stem Cell Reports that provide context around key recommendations. These papers will publish online at the end of May and will be in the issue that comes out on 8 June. An overview of the guidelines will publish in Nature at the end of the month as well. The ISSCR will announce the Guidelines release and these papers to members and the scientific community broadly and have planned a panel session at the ISSCR 2021 Annual Meeting where task force members will discuss areas of the Guidelines that have changed and take questions.

Translating iPS Cell-Based Therapies to the Clinic
The Workshop on Clinical Translation that will take place on 7 June is one of the most popular sessions of the Annual Meeting. This year’s program, Translating iPS Cell-Based Therapies to the Clinic, gathers speakers from academia, industry, and regulatory bodies to discuss how to progress cellular therapies. Experts will highlight key steps in the process, from designing and planning pre-clinical and clinical trials, to cell manufacturing, commercialization considerations, and reimbursement strategies - all with an eye toward global regulatory requirements and strategies. As advances in our field move to the clinic, this is a terrific opportunity to see where the science is heading. This workshop complements the ISSCR Digital series we are hosting during the next few weeks, The Manufacturing, Engineering, and Regulation of Pluripotent Stem Cell-based Therapies.

New Content at ISSCR 2021
While we have a packed May and early June at the society, I also what to share more about a few new elements of the ISSCR 2021 Annual Meeting program. This year’s Program Chair Sally Temple and I were thrilled to put together three Plenary Roundtables this year that will extend the discussion:

  • The Fascination with Gastrulation: The Applications and Ethics of Modeling Early Development, moderated by Janet Rossant, will explore public concerns about modeling human embryo development in vitro and how might this knowledge be translated to be valuable for in vivo use? We know this will be an extremely timely conversation given recent papers that have published and the considerable news coverage and conversations they generated.
  • Stem Cell Organoid Models as Empirical Testbeds for Personal Medicine Development moderated by Hans Clevers will explore an “organoid assay” that was used to identify a genetic mutation in cystic fibrosis patients that is responsive to therapeutics – including a patient who benefited from this approach.
  • Lastly, Engineered Tissues: Challenges to Bring to Clinic, moderated by Lorenz Studer, will cover challenges in manufacturing complex bioengineered products for clinical trials. These forward-looking discussions are part of what makes the ISSCR Annual Meeting an unparalleled, thought-provoking, and inspiring global event. So, mark your calendar from 21-26 June. No matter where you are in the world you can access the meeting live, rebroadcast, and on-demand making it more than possible to view every session.

One other new program I want to mention is one the society is hosting for the first time, Promoting Equity in Stem Cell Science. This panel is a conversation with leading scientists who will discuss how to promote equity in STEM, support scientists from historically underrepresented groups, and identify systemic changes that we can advocate for that will promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of stem cell science. Shirley Malcolm, Director of the STEMM Equity Achievement (SEA Change) Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is moderating this panel for our community. Dr. Malcolm has gained tremendous experience through her long-standing work to transform educational institutions in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are anticipating a meaningful discussion with her and our panelists Cato Laurencin, Ubaka Ogbogu, and Melissa Little.

The ISSCR continues to innovate, anticipating the field and offering scientific education and thoughtful discussions that benefit our members and the field. Mark your calendars and join the society as we continue to break new ground and help shape the future of stem cell science and regenerative medicine.