ISSCR 2013 Show Preview (continued)

Additional stories relevant to ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting in Boston, plus more photos

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Events for juniorinvestigators

At each ISSCR Annual Meeting, special events are held toprovide networking, career-building and social opportunities for juniorinvestigators. This year in Boston, the following events will be held as partof the ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting:

Meet the ExpertsLunches
Thursday, June 13, andFriday, June 14
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
These networking events provide the opportunity to meet stemcell leaders in a casual setting.

Junior Investigator Social Event
Thursday, June 13
8 p.m. to midnight

Career Panel
Saturday, June 15
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This panel provides a chance to network with peers andreceive career advice from a panel of experts during a lunch discussion.
The tower of Boston's Custom House in FinancialDistrict neighborhood of Boston was the first skyscraper in the city when itwas built in 1917. The structure is now Marriott's Custom House Hotel. CREDIT: Greater Boston Convention & VisitorsBureau

Focus sessions

Focus Sessions are member-organized presentations that offerparallel, in-depth educational opportunities exploring unique issues relatingto stem cell research. At the ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting, two sessions areplanned to be held the morning of Wednesday, June 12:
  • SomaticCell Donation for Stem Cell Research: Current Challenges, Future Directions –presented by the ISSCR Ethics and Public Policy Committee
  • GeneratingCollections of Human iPSC and ES lines: Establishing Best Practices for SharingProtocols and Cell Lines – presented by Stem Cell COREdinates with the AllenInstitute of Brain Science

Pictured here are two Boston landmarks: TrinityChurch and the John Hancock Tower. Located in the Back Bay area of Boston, thechurch, founded in 1733, is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.The John Hancock Tower, officially named Hancock Place and colloquially knownas The Hancock, is a 60-story building that is the tallest in New England andhas been the tallest building in Boston for more than 30 years. CREDIT: Greater Boston Convention & VisitorsBureau

Exhibit hours

Wednesday, June 12
3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 13
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, June 14
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 15
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

ISSCR figuresprominently among winners of inaugural Breakthrough Prize
SKOKIE, Ill.—This year marked the inauguration of theBreakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, with the award going out to 11 people in2013. Among those 11 distinguished recipients announced in February, theIllinois-based International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) notes thatit can boast two who have a direct connection to the ISSCR and one with a verytimely, if indirect, connection.
One of those direct connections was Dr. Hans Clevers, who isa member of the ISSCR board of directors as well as being a professor ofmedical genetics at the Hubrecht Institute in The Netherlands. He received hisBreakthrough Prize for describing the role of Wnt signaling in tissue stemcells and cancer.
Also with close ties to ISSCR is Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, whoreceived the prize for work in the area of induced pluripotent stem cells.Yamanaka is the current ISSCR president and also director of the Center for iPSCell Research and Application at Kyoto University as well as a seniorinvestigator for the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.
On the more indirect end of things is Dr. Eric S. Lander,who is the keynote speaker for ISSCR's annual meeting in June. Lander is aprofessor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), aprofessor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School and the president andfounding director of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.Lander earned his prize for the discovery of general principles for identifyinghuman disease genes and enabling their application to medicine through thecreation and analysis of genetic, physical and sequence maps of the humangenome.
"We are incredibly happy for our colleagues who havereceived such an amazing recognition of their pioneering research. By honoringand celebrating our scientific heroes, this award is inspirational to the nextgeneration of scientists and highlights the impact that stem cell research hason human lives," says Janet Rossant, president-elect of the ISSCR, who willsucceed Yamanaka as ISSCR president following the ISSCR Annual Meeting in June.
The other eight winners of the inaugural Breakthrough Prizewere:
  • Cornelia I. Bargmann of Rockefeller Universityand the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the genetics of neural circuits andbehavior and synaptic guidepost molecules
  • David Botstein of the Lewis-Sigler Institute forIntegrative Genomics and Princeton University for linkage mapping of Mendeliandisease in humans using DNA polymorphisms
  • Lewis C. Cantley of the Cancer Center at WeillCornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital for the discovery ofPI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism 
  • Titia de Lange of the Laboratory of Cell Biologyand Genetics and the Anderson Center for Cancer Research at RockefellerUniversity for research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosomeends and their role in genome instability in cancer
  • Napoleone Ferrara of the Moores Cancer Center atthe University of California, San Diego, for discoveries into the mechanisms ofangiogenesis that led to therapies for cancer and eye diseases
  • Charles L. Sawyers of Memorial Sloan-KetteringCancer Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for cancer genes andtargeted therapy
  • Bert Vogelstein of the Ludwig Center and theJohns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center for work on cancergenomics and tumor suppressor genes
  • Robert A. Weinberg of MIT and the Ludwig Centerfor Molecular Oncology for characterization of human cancer genes
  • The prize is administered by the Breakthrough Prize in LifeSciences Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancingbreakthrough research, celebrating scientists and generating excitement aboutthe pursuit of science as a career, as well as rewarding specific scientists"who think big, take risks and have made a significant impact on our lives."
    Founding sponsors of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences includeSergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan and YuriMilner, who collectively have agreed to establish five annual prizes of $3million each going forward. These prizes will be awarded for past achievementsin the field of life sciences, with the aim of providing the recipients withmore freedom and opportunity to pursue even greater future accomplishments.
    The Charles River is an 80-mile-long river thatflows in an overall northeasterly direction in eastern Massachusetts. From itssource in Hopkinton, the river travels through 23 cities and towns untilreaching the Atlantic Ocean at Boston. The river is well known for the rowing,sculling, dragonboating and sailing that takes place along it length, bothrecreational and competitive. CREDIT: Greater Boston Convention & VisitorsBureau 

    Oversight should notbe overlooked
    ISSCR emphasizesimportance of regulatory oversight for stem cell products for clinical use

    SKOKIE, Ill.—As with so many societies in the life-sciencearena, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) not onlyorganizes annual meetings and other educational efforts but also juggles suchissues as research breakthroughs and concerns, public health, regulatorymatters and more. Of particular concern this spring to the ISSCR is noting theimportance of regulatory oversight for stem cell products for clinical use—anissue arising from the society's concern that the Italian government hasauthorized what it calls "an unproven stem cell therapy" for use in patients.
    A recent decision announced by Italy's health ministerauthorized the administration of cells that have been described as mesenchymalstem cells to patients with neurological disorders, and this has raised concernnot just for the ISSCR but in the international research community at large,the ISSCR says.
    As the society notes, "It is not clear based on thescientific literature that mesenchymal stem cells have any ability toameliorate neurological conditions nor is there compelling evidence fromclinical trials that such cells provide benefit to patients with neurologicalconditions."
    Also, the ISSCR points out that the Italian Medicines Agencyhad previously denied this treatment.
    In addition to reminding people of the importance ofregulatory oversight, the ISSCR has specifically urged Italian lawmakers toheed concerns of scientists around the world about "the premature practice ofunproven stem cell treatments" and to recognize the importance of regulatoryoversight and patient protection when developing new stem cell medicines.
    "Stem cells have the potential to improve the treatment ofmany serious diseases but cell-based therapies present new challenges. In ourenthusiasm to advance cures, we must not ignore the laws and regulations thatexist to protect patients and ensure that medicines are manufactured underrigorous conditions and then proven safe and effective before being marketed bycompanies," says Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, ISSCR's 2012-2013 president. "Patientshave been harmed when treatments circumvent the medical regulatory process. Westress the importance of regulatory oversight at many stages in the developmentof new stem cell therapies, and the testing of these therapies in controlledclinical trials to generate knowledge that can help all patients."
    As the society notes, the ISSCR's "Guidelines for theClinical Translation of Stem Cells," published in 2008, emphasize thatprocessing and manufacture of any cell product should be conducted underexpert, independent review and oversight, to ensure as much as possible thequality and safety of the cells. The guidelines recommend adherence to GMPprocedures for extensively manipulated stem cells intended for clinicalapplication. Moreover, the ISSCR reiterates the value of a strong biologicalrationale for clinical interventions with stem cell-based products, based onrigorous evidence from preclinical studies and a plausible hypothesis for howcells are expected to improve a disease process.
    "We sympathize with patients with incurable diseases,"Yamanaka says. "However, there is little objective reason to believe that thesepatients have the possibility of benefitting from a mesenchymal stem celltherapy and treatment decisions should not be made outside of a controlledclinical trial without data on safety and efficacy."
    The ISSCR believes that innovative and compassionate care isimportant, but untested therapies should only be offered outside of clinicaltrials in limited circumstances where there is sound theoretical reason tobelieve the patient could benefit. This exception, the society notes, does notjustify commercializing unproven therapies.

    Scripps scientistsfind antibody that transforms bone marrow stem cells into brain cells

    LA JOLLA, Calif.—While is isn't directly related to the ISSCR11th Annual Meeting, an April announcement by the Scripps Research Institute(TSRI) may be of interest to meeting attendees, as TSRI says some of itsresearchers have found a way to turn bone marrow stem cells directly into braincells thanks to "a serendipitous discovery" while working with antibodies.
    The researchers discovered the method, reported in theonline early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthe week of April 22, while looking for lab-grown antibodies that can activatea growth-stimulating receptor on marrow cells. One antibody turned out toactivate the receptor in a way that induces marrow stem cells—which normallydevelop into white blood cells—to become neural progenitor cells, a type ofalmost-mature brain cell.

    "These results highlight the potential of antibodies asversatile manipulators of cellular functions," said Richard A. Lerner, the LitaAnnenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry and institute professor in theDepartment of Cell and Molecular Biology at TSRI, and principal investigatorfor the new study. "This is a far cry from the way antibodies used to bethought of—as molecules that were selected simply for binding and notfunction."

    Current techniques for turning patients' marrow cells intocells of some other desired type are relatively cumbersome, risky andeffectively confined to the lab dish, TSRI notes. The new finding from itsscientists points to the possibility of simpler and safer techniques, it adds,as cell therapies derived from patients' own cells are widely expected to beuseful in treating spinal cord injuries, strokes and other conditionsthroughout the body, with little or no risk of immune rejection.

    To return to part one of the ISSCR annual meeting coverage, click here.

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