Review of ISSCR 2016 Annual Meeting - 13 July, 2016

  • 13 July, 2016

The 2016 ISSCR Annual Meeting returned to North America this year and showcased the latest basic discoveries, technological innovations and translational stem cell research at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA. Nearly 3,500 scientists from over 55 countries convened to share their science, network with colleagues and set the foundation for future discoveries in a city formed by discovery – the discovery of gold in northern California nearly 170 years ago.

Like all annual meetings, this one began with the planning committee and this year’s group, chaired by Deepak Srivastava, did an outstanding job developing a comprehensive scientific program highlighting the diversity of stem cell research. In the nearly 200 talks featured in the plenary and concurrent sessions, which included nearly 120 talks invited from oral abstracts, the science spanned the breadth of stem cell research - from the role of stem cells in the development of model organisms to some of the translational research that has resulted in stem cell-derived therapies that have advanced into clinical trials. The science and technology wasn’t confined to the lecture halls as the exhibition hall was a hub of activity with nearly 1,300 posters and 143 companies exhibiting the latest innovations in research technology. The ISSCR thanks all those who presented their science, exhibited their technology and supported the annual meeting.

We also thank our co-sponsor, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). CIRM was instrumental in planning the free public symposium entitled, “The Multi-Talented Stem Cell: Unlocking the Clinical Potential.” This powerful symposium paired scientists who discussed their research on diseases such as Parkinson’s, sickle cell anemia and retinitis pigmentosa with patient advocates who described the impact of the disease on their life or that of a loved one, as well as their role in supporting each other and the scientists working for a treatment or cure.

For the second year in a row, the Workshop on Clinical Translation preceded the annual meeting. This full-day workshop, co-organized with the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT), featured international experts on cellular therapy and regulatory affairs with real-life experience moving translational projects into the clinic. This year’s workshop utilized case studies of therapies for neural repair and hematopoietic and immunologic diseases to illustrate the steps required to take a product into the clinic.

The annual meeting began with a record seven focus sessions, a standard and popular forum on the opening morning of the annual meeting. These in-depth, independently organized sessions by academic and/or industry groups were diverse and included sessions on the ethics of genome modification, practical tips on starting a company, tools for basic and applied stem cell biology and fighting cancer with immunotherapies.

The Presidential Symposium, the first plenary session of the day began with outgoing President Sean Morrison welcoming attendees and highlighting important accomplishments of the society during the past year which included the launch of public policy program and the release of revised Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation. Presentations by John Dick, Irving Weissman, Elaine Fuchs and Pier Paolo Pandolfi covered aspects of stem cells and cancer, the scientific theme of the Presidential Symposium.

The presentation of the three awards given by the ISSCR in recognition of outstanding contribution to stem cell research also took place during the first day of the meeting. The McEwen Award for Innovation was presented to Austin Smith and Qi-Long Ying in recognition of their contributions to the fundamental understanding of pluripotency. Fernando Camargo received the ISSCR Dr. Susan Lim Award for Outstanding Young Investigator for his innovative research on adult stem cells, regulation of organ size, and cancer. Leonard Zon presented the ISSCR Tobias Award Lecture in recognition of his original basic and clinical research on the role of stem cells in hematological disorders.

The annual meeting was more than just scientific presentations. There were multiple opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior investigators to shape their future with networking and career development events. The Early Career Group Leader Luncheon, designed for junior investigators running a laboratory, explored the role of bias in our professional careers. For graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the Networking with Leader Luncheon was an opportunity to have small group conversations with leaders in academics and industry and the Junior Investigator Career Panel entitled, “Strategies for Success: Choosing the Best Career Path for you Bioscience PhD” offered a panel of professionals from non-academic careers with tips and strategies to find a rewarding job that leverages an individual’s skill set.

The ISSCR also recognized the research of young scientists, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, with the annual poster awards. Winners of this year’s awards were:

Semir Beyaz (Harvard Medical School, U.S.)
Di Chen (University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.)
Tomoki Otani (Wellcome Trust / Gurdon Institute, U.K.)
Guangdun Peng (Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology / Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)
Giorgia Quadrato (Harvard University, U.S.)

The 2016 ISSCR Tissue Engineering Poster Award supported by the Society for Biomaterials was given to Kento Onishi (University of California, Berekely, U.S.).

The excitement of the annual meeting drew to a close with the final plenary session on cell therapies in clinical trials. Among the presenters in this session, which featured talks on potential therapies in development for Parkinson’s, blood and retinal disease, was incoming president Sally Temple who shared her vision for the society in the coming year. The final presenter of the session, Robert Tjian, reminded all of us how amazing basic science can be with his presentation of single molecule super-resolution imaging and its ability to track individual proteins in real time in single cells.

The ISSCR thanks everyone for attending the ISSCR 2016 Annual Meeting and making it so successful. We look forward to seeing you in Boston in 2017!