Every pursuit has its headline events: business has Davos, cinematography has the Oscars and tennis has Grand Slams. These are affairs where the world’s elite gathers to reflect on achievements, and through a delicate mix of competition and collaboration, seek to drive sustained improvements in their respective fields.
To extend the tennis analogy, cell therapy, amongst many stellar year round events, probably boasts four Grand Slams: the World Stem Cell Summit, the World Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Congress, the Till & McCulloch Meetings and, of course, ISSCR.
Analogous to tennis, where playing surfaces exist on a spectrum from grass to clay, each meeting has its own thrust and characteristics, ranging from the overtly translational Till & McCulloch and the densely scientific ISSCR. However, each rightfully holds its revered place in the psyche of the cell therapy elite. Consequently, despite my personal passion and expertise in the clinical and commercial translation of cellular therapies, on my flight to Boston, I have been filled with a volatile mix of excitement and expectation.
Excitement born from the tangible energy that ISSCR generates in the community. And an expectation that, as in every previous year, ISSCR will live up to its billing.
As any committed sports fan would attest, it would be grossly inappropriate of me to do anything less than to contribute to this expectation by touting my own “must see” ISSCR performances.
Wednesday: Presidential Address, Shinya Yamanaka, RIKEN Institute, co-recipient (with John Gurdon, University of Cambridge), of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine. A tip that doesn’t really require any justification!
Thursday: Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells for Cardiovascular Disease Modeling, Joseph Wu, Stanford University. Cutting edge fundamental science with potentially near term commercial potential – not just another cellular therapeutic!
Friday: Integrating Viral Vectors, Gene Transfer into Hematopoietic Stem Cells and Therapies in Human Monogenic Diseases, David Williams, Boston Children’s Hospital, USA. Integration: one of the big dilemmas in the clinical translation of cellular therapies – I’ll be listening closely!
Saturday: Secrets of the Human Genome, Eric Lander, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, USA. Cellular therapies share many of the same opportunities and challenges as genomics – potentially a disruptive technological platform; despite immense investment has delivered limited; but growing commercial applications to date; and shares the need for standardization, including Good Genomic Practice.
With my passport now stamped by a reassuringly gruff New England TSA agent, and a cab waiting to whisk me to Brigham and Women’s Hospital Regenerative Medicine Center Inaugural Symposium (with Advanced Cell Technology’s Robert Lanza delivering the keynote), my ISSCR 2013 journey has begun. As your “ISSCR 2013 Correspondent,” I will be producing posts throughout the conference, and whether you will be joining me in Boston or not, I thoroughly hope that you enjoy the event.
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