ISSCR 2014 Show Preview: 12 years old and going strong

ISSCR annual meeting in Canada will show just how far the stem cell field has come in a relatively short time

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International Society for Stem Cell Research
12th Annual Meeting
June 18-21, 2014
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
DDNews pre-show coverage of
ISSCR 2014 sponsored by
Life Technologies

12 years old and going strong
VANCOUVER, British Columbia—In a sense, the fact that this year the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is convening merely its 12th annual meeting speaks volumes about the entire stem cell field, which has burst into full bloom over the past decade. Society President Dr. Janet Rossant notes that even the short span of a dozen months since the 2013 meeting has witnessed remarkable growth and change, much of which will be the focus of this year’s event in Canada, which runs from June 18 to 21 at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“We’ve seen advances in the fundamental biology of stem cells,” she says, “with studies showing how pluripotent stem cells are made. Pluripotency is a state and we have seen new insights into using small molecules to reprogram adult cells to pluripotent cells and to make fibroblasts become nerve, muscle and islet cells for repair and drug screens as well. We are looking forward in the near future to clinical trials of stem cells to treat diseases such as macular degeneration.”
The meeting will bring together approximately 4,000 stem cell scientists, bioethicists, clinicians and industry professionals from more than 50 countries to present and discuss the latest research and technologies within the field.
“The ISSCR is thrilled to bring the 12th annual meeting to Canada, the birthplace of some very early and important stem cell discoveries and an important ongoing contributor to the field,” Dr. Rossant observes.
The 2014 Annual Meeting Program Committee is chaired by Fiona Watt of King’s College London. Watt and the committee have worked together over the past year to assemble a diverse program and an international contingent of stem cell researchers, clinicians and industry professionals to share the newest research, technologies and clinical advancements. Speakers will continue to be selected from submitted abstracts to add further depth to the planned program.
“Each year, the ISSCR endeavors to bring together established, emerging and future leaders in stem cell research to explore a broad range of important topics in our field,” Watt says. “This year is no exception, and we look forward to hearing from the recipient of the ISSCR-BD Biosciences Outstanding Young Investigator Award, Valentina Greco, who has made significant early-career contributions to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.”
The meeting will open with the Presidential Symposium on Wednesday, June 18 from 1 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. local time. A prestigious lineup of speakers will present the cutting edge in stem cell research, from its underpinnings in developmental biology through to its potential therapeutic applications. The symposium is also the stage for the formal recognition of the 2014 recipients of the McEwen Award for Innovation and the ISSCR Public Service Award. Another prestigious award, the ISSCR-BD Biosciences Outstanding Young Investigator Award mentioned by Watt, will be presented during Plenary V, followed by an award lecture.
The 2014 McEwen Award for Innovation will be presented to Dr. Azim Surani of the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, in recognition of his work on the cellular and molecular specification of the mammalian germ cell lineage. His research has helped uncover how the germ line is established and what molecular mechanisms are responsible for reprogramming the epigenome to achieve the totipotent state.
The 2014 ISSCR-BD Biosciences Outstanding Young Investigator Award, as noted earlier, will be presented to Greco, who is at Yale University, for her research into the interactions between stem cells and their niches, including the first direct, real-time visualization of stem cell divisions in living animals.
The fourth annual ISSCR Public Service Award will be presented to Dr. Paolo Bianco of Sapienza University of Rome, Dr. Elena Cattaneo of the University of Milan and Dr. Michele De Luca of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in recognition of their recent involvement in public debate and policy-making in Italy and their championing of rigorous scientific and medical standards and stringent regulatory oversight in the introduction of new stem cell treatments into the clinic. This award will be presented during the June 18 Presidential Symposium.
“This year’s Presidential Symposium goes back to basics with a focus on the developmental biology underpinning current research,” Rossant says. “Understanding the players and pathways that give rise to complex tissues or organisms is crucial to unlocking the power of stem cells and we will hear some remarkable stories of how this is happening in this session and throughout the meeting.”
As the society’s president, Rossant was the key organizer of this year’s Presidential Symposium from her vantage point as a senior scientist in the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology program and chief of research at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. She is also a university professor at the University of Toronto and a professor in the Departments of Molecular Genetics, Obstetrics/Gynaecology and Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. Her research interests center on understanding the genetic control of normal and abnormal development in the early mouse embryo using both cellular and genetic manipulation techniques. Her interests in the early embryo have led to the discovery of a novel placental stem cell type, the trophoblast stem cell. She is deputy scientific director of the Canadian Stem Cell Network and directs the Centre for Modeling Human Disease in Toronto, which is undertaking genome-wide mutagenesis in mice to develop new mouse models of human disease.
The Presidential Symposium, she proudly points out, will include the following: Dr. Brigid Hogan of Duke University Medical Center in the United States, Dr. Gordon Keller of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University Health Network in Canada, Dr. Olivier Pourquie of the Strasbourg University Medical School in France and Dr. Lorenz Studer of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in the United States.
Addressing stem cell tourism
OTTAWA, Ontario—The Stem Cell Network (SCN) specifically cautions visitors to its website about the inherent risks of so-called stem cell tourism, an expression used to describe the practice of traveling outside of your home country to obtain medical therapies or treatments. It is a rapidly growing multibillion dollar industry, according to SCN. Specific to stem cells, such treatments can cost patients in excess of $40,000, with no guarantee of efficacy or safety, and often with little or no follow-up on the part of the clinic. Current data suggests that as many as 5,000 of these treatments have already been conducted by the largest of these clinics.
There are many clinics that advertise fee-based stem cell treatments for a variety of ailments, SCN has concluded. Not all of these treatments are based on sound scientific evidence—for example, a Stem Cell Network-funded study of the online marketing of nineteen stem cell clinics found that the clinics’ claims of safe, effective and routine therapies were not substantiated by published evidence.
The research community has been vocal in its caution to patients who are considering these therapies. The website, was created by the International Society of Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), and is supported by the SCN and many Canadian researchers. “ISSCR acts as an international voice promoting appropriate ethical and regulatory oversight as stem cell discoveries are translated into therapies,” the organization’s President Janet Rossant notes. “We currently have a task force updating and extending our professional guidelines for the clinical translation of stem cells, first published in 2008 and implemented and in use around the world.”
Stem Cell Reports turns 1
SKOKIE, Ill.—The International Society of Stem Cell Research’s journal, Stem Cell Reports, will celebrate its first year of publication at the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting this year in Vancouver after what ISSCR calls “a striking debut” at the ISSCR 11th Annual Meeting in Boston in June 2013.
Stem Cell Reports is ISSCR’s official journal, a high visibility, open-access journal covering the breadth of stem cell research and its applications to medicine. The ISSCR partnered with publisher Cell Press to produce Stem Cell Reports, and an international editorial team led by Christine Mummery of Leiden University Medical Center drives a “fast and fair” peer-review process with strong editorial decision-making by leaders in the field.
Stem Cell Reports acts as a forum for new data, dialogue about scientific issues and a chance for researchers in the field to present their latest findings in short, single-message papers. The journal is already a well-cited contributor to the field, celebrating its first “century” in March 2014, when the 100th article was accepted for publication; ISSCR calls this “a tremendous achievement and a testament to the hard work of the scientific editor-in-chief and associate editors, with the support of the ISSCR board of directors and the stem cell research community.”
New articles are published online weekly. To access content or submit a manuscript, visit
If you are attending this year’s ISSCR meeting, look out for the “Best of Stem Cell Reports, 2013-2014” with your registration materials. The June anniversary issue will also be available at the ISSCR booth.
Dr. Christine Mummery, the journal’s editor-in-chief, says, “It has been an incredibly exciting first year. We have been delighted to receive a strong flow of high-quality submissions and, in turn, to have ensured speedy, constructive review and publication. The ISSCR leadership and the stem cell research community have been incredibly supportive as both authors and reviewers, and the outcome is a well-recognized journal that will serve the needs of the community for a long time to come.”
ISSCR announces 2014 award recipients
SKOKIE, Ill.—The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has announced the following 2014 award recipients, who will be formally recognized at the ISSCR 12th  Annual Meeting:
  • Azim Surani, Ph.D., Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, for the McEwen Award for Innovation
  • Valentina Greco, Ph.D., Yale University, Department of Genetics, Yale Stem Cell Center, for the ISSCR-BD Biosciences Outstanding Young Investigator Award
  • Paolo Bianco, M.D., Sapienza University of Rome; Elena Cattaneo, Ph.D., University of Milan; and Michele De Luca, M.D., University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, for the ISSCR Public Service Award
The McEwen Award for Innovation, supported by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, recognizes original thinking and groundbreaking research pertaining to stem cells or regenerative medicine that opens new avenues of exploration toward the understanding or treatment of human disease or affliction. The winner receives $100,000. Past winners include James Thomson, Rudolf Jaenisch, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka.
Award recipient Surani is a world leader in the field of epigenetics and the development of the mammalian germ line. His work on early mammalian development led to his involvement in the discovery of genomic imprinting and ongoing contributions to understanding the mechanistic basis of imprinting. Most relevant to stem cell biology is his work on the cellular and molecular specification of the mammalian germ cell lineage, which affected the field’s understanding of how the germ line is established and the molecular mechanisms responsible for reprogramming the epigenome in order to generate the totipotent state.
“The ISSCR is thrilled to announce the McEwen Award for Innovation, our most prestigious award, will be presented to Azim Surani,” Dr. Janet Rossant, ISSCR president, said. “His pioneering research, which has changed the face of epigenetics and advanced the field of stem cell biology, is a rare and significant contribution from a single individual.”
The ISSCR-BD Biosciences Outstanding Young Investigator Award recognizes exceptional achievements by an ISSCR member and investigator in the early part of their independent career in stem cell research.
The winner receives a $7,500 personal award and an opportunity to present at the ISSCR’s annual meeting. Past winners include Marius Wernig, Cédric Blanpain, Robert Blelloch, Joanna Wysocka and Konrad Hochedlinger.
“The ISSCR is looking forward to presenting our Outstanding Young Investigator Award to Valentina Greco,” Rossant said. “Her enthusiastic nomination by over a dozen leaders in the field of stem cell research demonstrates the significance of her early-career contributions to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.”
Award recipient Greco established a noninvasive method to directly visualize skin stem cell division in real time in living animals—reportedly the first method of its kind for imaging any stem cell. By combining this method with laser ablation and transgenic lineage tracing, she captured previously inaccessible key information on stem cell behavior during tissue maintenance and regeneration. She demonstrated that the niche location of stem cells dictates their fates, the niche is required for tissue maintenance and that a β-catenin-mediated extrinsic mechanism regulates stem cell activation.
The ISSCR Public Service Award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions of public service to the fields of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Winners are selected by the ISSCR board of directors. Past winners include Hiromitsu and Betty Jean Crouch Ogawa, Rob and Cheryl McEwen and Robert Klein.
Award recipients Bianco, Cattaneo and De Luca were selected for their recent involvement in public debate and policy-making in Italy, championing rigorous scientific and medical standards and stringent regulatory oversight in the introduction of new stem cell treatments into the clinic (see sidebar “Addressing stem cell tourism” on page 12).
Posters, plenary and concurrent sessions
VANCOUVER, British Columbia—This year’s “Therapies in the Clinic” plenary session will feature cutting-edge gene and cell therapy approaches to blood and neurodegenerative disorders, in addition to Dr. James Shapiro from the University of Alberta, who led the clinical team that developed the Edmonton Protocol, the first method to achieve consistent insulin independence in a series of islet transplant recipients with type 1 diabetes.
In the “Road to the Clinic: Challenges Ahead” concurrent session, invited speaker Dr. Christopher Breuer of Nationwide Children’s Hospital will present his experience with driving a treatment into a clinical trial and explore the challenges he sees ahead. He developed a tissue-engineered vascular graft for pediatric congenital heart surgery and will take his findings back to the laboratory to better understand what has been observed clinically.
The “Sensory Systems Repair” concurrent session will feature a presentation from Dr. Albert Edge of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, senior author of a recent Stem Cell Reports paper on the regeneration of sound-sensing cells in the ears of mice with hearing damage. Previously, scientists believed sound-sensing hair cells in the inner ear were not replaced once lost, but this new research shows that supporting cells in the ear can turn into hair cells in newborn mice, which may lead to ways for the eventual stimulation of cell replacement in adults and treatment strategies for people suffering from deafness due to hair cell loss.
ISSCR’s 2014 annual meeting will feature more than 1,600 posters from meeting participants all over the world. Selected posters, highlighting exceptional abstracts, will be briefly presented as part of each concurrent session. These and other posters offer a first look at new work from both emerging and established professionals, which may be further explored during evening receptions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during the meeting.
“The poster sessions are where a lot of the great scientific exchange between meeting attendees takes place,” Program Chair Fiona Watt said. “Networking is one of the most valuable components of the ISSCR annual meeting and attendees frequently cite the poster sessions as the genesis of great ideas and collaborations.”
Meet the Experts Lunches
The ISSCR will host its popular “Meet the Experts” lunches for trainee members registered for the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting in Vancouver. Spread over two days (Thursday, June 19, and Friday, June 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), the events offer the opportunity for trainee members to meet with stem cell research experts over lunch. Expert participants will include:
Thursday, June 19
Supported by the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington
Paolo Bianco, M.D.
Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Amander Clark, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Robert Deans, BSc, Ph.D.
Athersys Inc., USA
Brigid L. Hogan, Ph.D.
Duke University Medical Center, USA
Gordon M. Keller, Ph.D.
McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Canada
Robin Lovell-Badge, Ph.D.
MRC National Institute for Medical Research, UK
Simon Mendez-Ferrer, Ph.D.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, USA
Kateri Moore, DVM
Icahn School of Medicine and Mount Sinai, USA
Charles Murry, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Washington, USA
Andres Nagy, Ph.D.
Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Canada
M. Cristina Nostro, Ph.D.
McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Canada
Barbara Pauly, Ph.D.
EMBO Reports, Germany
Olivier Pourquié, Ph.D.
Strasbourg University Medical School, France
Bruno Reversade, Ph.D.
Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore
Michael Rudnicki, Ph.D., FRSC
Ottawa Heath Research Institute, Canada
Hannele Ruohola-Baker, Ph.D.
University of Washington, USA
Michel Sadelain, M.D., Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, USA
A.M. James Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., FRCSC
University of Alberta, Canada
Yufang Shi, Ph.D.
Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, China
Melody A. Swartz, Ph.D.
EPFL, Switzerland
Deborah Sweet, Ph.D.
Cell Press, USA
Michael H. Sieweke
CIML, France
Ann Tsukamoto, Ph.D.
StemCells Inc., USA
Friday, June 20
Supported by Takeda Pharmaceuticals
Roger A. Barker, Ph.D., MRCP
Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, UK
Connie Eaves, Ph.D.
Terry Fox Lab, BC Cancer Agency, Canada
Bruce Edgar, Ph.D.
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Germany
Arnold R. Kriegstein, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco, USA
Ronald Law, Ph.D.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, USA
Nathalie Le Bot, Ph.D.
Nature Cell Biology
Haifan Lin, Ph.D.
Yale University Medical School, USA
Melissa H. Little, BS, Ph.D.
The University of Queensland, Australia
Nadia Mercader, Ph.D.
Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares, Spain
Luigi Naldini, M.D., Ph.D.
Universita Vita-Salute S.R., Italy
Kathrin Plath, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles, USA
David T. Scadden, M.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University, USA
Thomas Schwarz-Romond, Ph.D.
The EMBO Journal, Germany
Kirsty Spalding, Ph.D.
Karolinska Institute, Sweden
Molly Stevens, Ph.D.
Imperial College London, UK
Lorenz Studer, M.D.
Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, USA
T. Michael Underhill, Ph.D.
University of British Columbia, Canada
Amy Wagers, Ph.D.
Joslin Diabetes Center, USA
Irving L. Weissman, M.D.
Stanford University, USA
Peter Zandstra, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, Canada
Mark Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Janssen R&D, USA
Leonard I. Zon, M.D.
Boston Children's Hospital, USA
About the ISSCR
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is an independent nonprofit organization and a major voice of the stem cell research community. The ISSCR was founded in 2002 to foster the exchange of information on stem cell research and now claims more than 4,100 members worldwide.
As noted on the ISSCR website, “As the leading professional society for stem cell research, we are committed to building a network of international leaders in the stem cell field as a way to promote and foster the exchange of information and research.”
Among the touted benefits and opportunities of becoming a member of ISSCR are:
  • Access to the society’s scientific programming about current advances in the stem cell field
  • Expansion of your professional network with a community of more than 4,100 members in more than 55 countries
  • Ability to find out about and share cutting-edge research through the society’s open-access journal and affiliated publications
Events for young investigators
Junior Investigator Career Panel
Strategies for Success: Transition to an Independent Career
Saturday, June 21
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Vancouver Convention Centre, Oceanside Foyer, West Level 2
This year’s career panel, “Strategies for Success: Transition to an Independent Career,” will focus on making the leap from postdoc to independent scientist. The transition to an independent career can be intimidating, so the ISSCR invites you to let its panel of experts—ranging from junior to senior faculty members—guide you through key moves they have made on the road to becoming an independent investigator. What types of qualities and experiences are hiring committees looking for? Once you get your job, how do you successfully compete for funding and write a winning R01 application? With limited management experience, how do you best learn to direct your group and resolve interpersonal conflicts within the lab? Panelists will share their own experiences, strategies and mistakes to help you learn how to navigate your own path to success.
Junior Investigator Social Night
Thursday, June 19
9:30 p.m.–1 a.m.
Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver
Always a highlight of the meeting, according to the ISSCR, the JI Social Night is where young investigators from around the world meet, mingle, dance and socialize with colleagues. This fun-filled night of dancing and entertainment will take place at Vancouver’s historic nightclub, the Commodore Ballroom, located in the heart of the city’s entertainment district and a short distance from the Vancouver Convention Centre. Admission is free for ISSCR junior investigator meeting delegates, but pre-registration is required. Attendees must be 19 or older to be admitted into the venue.
Future ISSCR annual meetings
ISSCR 13th Annual Meeting
June 24-27, 2015
Stockholmsmassan Exhibition and Congress Centre
ISSCR 14th Annual Meeting
June 2016
San Francisco
ISSCR 15th Annual Meeting
June 2017
Plenary topics
Cell Heterogeneity
Epigenetics and Pluripotency
Inflammation and Tissue Repair
Mesenchymal Stromal Cells
Therapies in the Clinic
Concurrent Topics
Aging and Metabolism
Asymmetric Cell Division
Cancer Plasticity
Control of Pluripotency
Epithelial and Mesenchymal Stem Cells
Germline Biology
Modeling Disease with iPSCs
Monitoring and Modulating the Niche
Neural Differentiation
Neural Stem Cells and Development
Road to the Clinic: Challenges ahead
Sensory Systems Repair
Stem Cells and Cancer
Stem Cells in Model Organisms
Systems Biology of Stem Cells
Focus Sessions
Focus Sessions are member-organized presentations that offer parallel, in-depth educational opportunities that explore unique issues relating to stem cell research. At the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting, the following Focus Sessions will be held the morning of Wednesday, June 18:
“Engaging the Engine – How Public/Private Partnerships Between Academia and Industry Can Facilitate More Efficient Translation” – presented by the ISSCR Industry and Junior Investigator Committees.
“Ethics, Stem Cells and the Information Age” – presented by the ISSCR Ethics and Public Policy Committee.
“Tools for Basic and Applied Stem Cell Biology” – presented by Stem Cell COREdinates and WiCell.
“The Establishment of Global Resource Networks for iPSC Research” – presented by RUCDR Infinite Biologics, Rutgers University.
At the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting…
...this is what the society anticipates most attendees will do:
  • Learn about exciting discoveries from global thought leaders during plenary and concurrent sessions, covering the full breadth of stem cell science
  • Connect with scientists from all spectrums of study during lively evening receptions showcasing more than 1,600 posters
  • Network with peers and colleagues at planned topic-focused Meet Up sessions, or better yet, they can organize Meet Up sessions for people who share their particular passions
  • Map your career path at special events designed for early-career group leaders and junior investigators
  • Explore the largest exhibit hall dedicated to stem cell research to uncover the newest tools and reagents to accelerate their research
  • Attend a focus session organized by their peers in the ISSCR Ethics and Public Policy Committee, Industry Committee or Junior Investigators Committee
  • Discover new technologies and methods used in stem cell research during the Industry Wednesday Symposia and industry-led Innovation Showcase sessions

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