ISSCR 2009: outside the plenary hall

Author: Stem Cell Network, 07/13/09

Cel-lules mare – The night before ISSCR’s 7th Annual Meeting officially began, a public symposium was held at CosmoCaixa Barcelona in the north end of the city.  The event was open to everyone attending ISSCR as well as curious members of the Spanish public.

The evening started with ESTOOLS’ “Smile of a Stem Cell” photo exhibition, a collection of stem cell pictures taken and captioned by scientists working across Europe. The exhibit has been shown all over the continent at high schools, galleries and even prisons. Sebastien Duprat, the Training and Outreach Manager at ESTOOLS, wanted the traveling exhibition to be a stem cell event that anyone could feel comfortable attending, and he has seen it spark public discussion and start to bridge the gap between scientists and the public. Duprat’s 2009 Stem Cell Research article provides a summary of the project and its approach.

The symposium also included films and a panel discussion.  EuroStemCell and EuroSystem screened their award-winning short film “A Stem Cell Story,” followed by the newest film in the series, a short overview of iPS cells by C.Clare Blackburn.

The panel of nine included scientists, heads of international stem cell agencies, ethicists and documentary filmmakers.  In a lengthy Q&A session, they tackled a range of issues, from how to communicate with the public to sources of stem cells, IP rights and clinical trials. Fiona Watt, past ISSCR president, in speaking about stem cell tourism, commented that ISSCR is “very concerned about this issue” and informed the crowd that the Society is working to both alert the public to specific unproven therapies and to create a new fact sheet that will provide a list of questions patients can ask a clinic to help assess the validity of the clinic’s claims.

ICSCN meetings – As in previous years, members of the International Consortium of Stem Cell Networks used the ISSCR event as the backdrop for the annual gathering of Consortium members, currently numbering 19 and representing regions around the world. In two meetings, the ICSCN heard summaries of activities from each member network and planned activities for the upcoming year. These include a continuation of travel grants and sponsorships to allow trainees to attend workshops and conferences held by other ICSCN members outside their own country, organization of a second post-doc workshop at the ISSCR 2010 meeting, and a concerted effort to foster increased collaboration between international labs working in specific disease areas.

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