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  Newsletter Issue 6, 7 October 2015

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STEM CELL SOCIETY SYMPOSIUM 2015

"Opportunities & Challenges in Stem Cell Based Medicine"

17 -18 November 2015

Matrix Building
30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671

 

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Message from the Chairman of the Organizing Committee

Dear Delegates, Friends & Members,

 

It gives me great pleasure to invite all of you to Singapore for the Annual Symposium of Stem Cell Society Singapore. Although stem cells show great promise, considerable challenges remain towards the translation of many of the stem cell therapies into the clinic.

We have put together a wonderful and exciting line up of speakers including our keynote speaker featured this week Dr. Mahendra Rao from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, USA and Tamra LYSAGHT, National University of Singapore.

The sessions of the symposium echo around the central theme of identifying opportunities and challenges in stem cell based therapies. I hope this symposium serves as a platform to clearly identify some of these challenges and deliberate on possible solutions to harness the opportunity of cell based medicine. 

I look forward to welcoming you all to the meeting.

Vivek Tanavde, Chair Organizing Committee & Secretary SCSS

 

Symposium announcements

The poster abstract submission deadline has been extended to the 16 October 2015.

Don't miss the opportunity to share your research projects with the delegates of the symposium in a relaxed and stimulating atmosphere.

This year we have dedicated a specific time slot to the poster session on the late afternoon of the first day and we will serve Wine & Cheese during the session. And you could bag some money too by winning one of the poster prizes of $200.

 

Deadlines to note:

1) Poster abstract submission: 16 October 2015 (extended)

2) Online registration closes: 30 October 2015

 

A tentative programme can be accessed HERE.

To learn more about the symposium, follow this LINK.

To register, click HERE.

Contact us HERE.

 

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Featured Speakers  

Mahendra RAO - KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Wake Forest School of Medicine, USA

 
Abstract  
Making and Using iPSC Derived Products

 

We believe  that iPSC are likely to be used to make multiple products and that lines used as input material will be used at different sites and that  given their immortal status they will be used for many years or even decades that it will be important to develop assays to monitor the state of the cells and their drift in culture.

We suggest that a detailed characterization of the initial status of the cells, a comparison with some calibration material and the development of reporter subclones will help determine which set of tests will be most useful in monitoring cells and establish criteria for discarding a line.

Biography Webpage PubMed

 

Mahendra Rao received his MD from Bombay University in India and his PhD in Developmental Neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology. He is wisely known for his research involving human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), iPSC, and other somatic stem cells. Mahendra has worked in the stem cell field for more than twenty years with stints in academia, government and regulatory affairs and industry. He has an extensive background teaching medical and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows at several institutions including the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, The National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, and the University of Utah School of Medicine. He has published more than 350 papers on stem cell research and is the co-founder of a neural stem cell company Q therapeutics based in Salt lake City (Utah).

Mahendra serves on several editorial boards, review panels scientific advisory boards and company boards. He continues to work with the NIH and FDA on consent other regulatory authorities on ESC related issues most recently as the CIRM and ISSCR liaison to the ISCT. Mahendra is currently on the faculty at Wake Forest University and is the Vice president of Research in Regenerative Medicine at Q therapeutics. He currently serves on the Board of CESCA, XCell and Q therapeutics and on the SAB’s and as a consultant of various stem cell companies including the New York Stem Cell foundation. Mahendra continues to maintain an active research program in neural development and in evaluating cell based screening and therapy to treat disorders of the nervous system.

Interview  

What was the first phenomenon you can recall that fascinated you about science?

Pavlov’s dog.

What is your most memorable career achievement?

Discovering Neural stem cells and neural restricted precursors.

What attracted you to a career in Science?

Fascinated by the idea of discovering something and then making it useful

Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

People who make a difference and are driven by curiosity. Sydney Brenner, Stanley Pruisner.

Which scientist/clinician has made the biggest impact in your field and why?

Shinya Yamanaka as he changed the direction of my laboratory.

What publication(s) had the most influence on you and why?

Discovery of PCR as a robust methodology.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

I was a developmental biologist; it was a logical thing.

What are the main regulatory issues confronting companies trying to bring stem cell therapies into the clinic (your answer may be country specific)?

No proper model for autologous cell therapy.

How are challenges relating to upscaling of stem cell culturing for large scale manufacturing being overcome?

Automation and disposable closed system.

What do you think is the single most important factor driving or inhibiting a broader clinical application of stem cells?

Lack of convincing clinical data.

Do you believe stem cells will ever be successful commercially?

They already have.

What would you be if not a scientist/clinician?

A truck driver.

What's the best advice you ever had?

Follow your dream.

What's the worst advice you ever had?

Settle for second best.

Where do you think stem cell research will be with regards to clinical application in 5-10 years’ time?

Organs and systems and rejuvenation.

What in your opinion will potentially be the next major breakthrough in stem cell research?

In vivo transdifferentiation.

What do you believe is the most promising direction in stem cell research?

Screening to discover small molecule based therapy and ex-vivo gene therapy.

From which other scientific fields would you suggest stem cell researchers could benefit the most?

Large scale data analysis and biomedical engineering.

What would you tell a student asking for advice whether to pick up a career in the stem cell field?

Follow your dream it's a career you are looking for not a job.

How many medically approved allogeneic stem cell therapy products are currently available in the market?

About ten.

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Tamra LYSAGHT

National University of Singapore

 

 
Abstract  
Fast-tracking Regenerative Medicine in Japan: Challenge or Opportunity for Stem Cell Science  

Japan has recently introduced new laws to fast-track the approval process for novel stem cell and cell-based products. While these laws appear to provide unprecedented opportunities for the clinical translation of stem cells by providing conditional approvals for products to enter the market before large-scale efficacy trials are completed, they may also grant unwarranted legitimacy to providers of stem cells who currently practice outside acceptable standards of care.

These practices may present new challenges by not only placing patients at undue risk but potentially undermining the credibility of the emerging regenerative medicine field.

Biography Lab webpage PubMed  

Tamra Lysaght is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests lie broadly in the ethical, sociopolitical and regulatory issues surrounding stem cell science and the clinical translation of regenerative medicines and genomics. She has expertise is in empirical ethics and experience in using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. She has worked on policy issues with the Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organisation, the Technical Working Group on Ethics at the World Health Organization and the

Translational Clinical Research Programme of the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore, and the Human Health Division of the International Atomic Energy Agency. She is currently working on the ethics and regulation of cell therapies and translational medicine, genomics and precision medicine, and the ethics of zoonotic disease management in Singapore.

Interview  

What was the first phenomenon you can recall that fascinated you about science?

Gravity; the weakest force that dominates everything in the universe from stars and galaxies, to planets and oceans.

What is your most memorable career achievement?

Surviving my PhD.

Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

Albert Einstein. He’s one of a few in history who has demonstrated true scientific genius.

What publication(s) had the most influence on you and why?

A Brief History of Time: Stephen Hawking. Wormholes!!

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

I haven’t pursuing stem cell research, but it became one of my key research interests in bioethics primarily because I was given a scholarship from the Australian Stem Cell Centre to work in the area. I then became interested in science controversies and policy-making more generally and addressing questions of: when, in the face of high uncertainty and contestation, what ought we do?

What do you think are the main issues confronting stem cell researchers at the moment?

The field losing its credibility from the shonky doctors and businesses offering dodgy stem cell treatments that don’t work, are potentially dangerous, and are ultimately ripping desperate people off.

What are the main regulatory issues confronting companies trying to bring stem cell therapies into the clinic (your answer may be country specific)?

Designing and conducting fair and rigorous clinical trials that can generate scientific evidence that can demonstrate to the regulators that the therapy is safe and efficacious.

What do you think is the single most important factor driving or inhibiting a broader clinical application of stem cells?

The lack of demonstrable evidence of clinical efficacy.

What would you be if not a scientist/clinician?

A bioethicist – oh wait, that’s what I am!!

What's the best advice you ever had?

Get out abroad, travel and gain as much experience from different mentors as you can.

What's the worst advice you ever had?

Go into bioethics.

Where do you think stem cell research will be with regards to clinical application in 5-10 years’ time?

Not much further from where we are now.

What in your opinion will potentially be the next major breakthrough in stem cell research?

I don’t think there are breakthroughs in science – that’s media word created to sell expensive science programs and make it look sexy and exciting so policymakers and publics will keep supporting it. However, the last 400 years hundreds of scientific research tells us that science rarely advances through seismic events; science happens very slowly and gradually, over many years of heated discussions, objections and perseverance. And so it should: Science is knowledge generation.

What do you believe is the most promising direction in stem cell research?

Identifying and isolating the paracrine mechanisms that are involved in cell signalling and tissue regeneration so they can be synthesised and manufactured in large standardised, quantities for clinical application – cells are an unreliable, cumbersome and inefficient drug delivery mechanism that is going to be incredibly difficult if not impossible to demonstrate evidence of efficacy and commercialize.

How many medically approved allogeneic stem cell therapy products are currently available in the market (anywhere in the world)?

Not including cord blood products? Maybe 2.

 

© 2015 Stem Cell Society Singapore