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  Newsletter Issue 1, 31 July 2013

Silver Sponsors


"Early Human Development & Fetal-Maternal Medicine"

18 -19 November

Matrix Building Level 2 & 2M
30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671


Bronze Sponsors










Dear Members, Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters,

This is the first of a series of Newsletters regarding the Symposium 2013 which we hope will stimulate you to register to the event in November 2013. Each newsletter will contain general news about the symposium as well as information about our plenary speakers such as abstracts, biographies, and an interview. In the interview we asked each speaker questions and we selected a couple of answers with the idea that you get to know each speaker a bit better ahead of the symposium. The abstract is still tentative and might change in the next couple of months to the symposium.

We hope that you enjoy reading the newsletters and in this way get a glimpse of our speakers and learn why they do what they do.

As for every year, the symposium is undoubtedly the main event and the highlight of the Society's annual calendar. We all look very much forward to the symposium and we trust that you will find the symposium useful to mingle and network with your fellow members, colleagues and friends.

We are confident that we are offering an excellent programme rich in key international players in their respective fields of research, including this year's key note speaker Rudolf Jaenisch. Rudolf's profile will be published in a later newsletter.

So why not register for the symposium TODAY!

To register, click HERE.

To learn more about the symposium, follow this LINK.

Contact us here.

With best wishes and the hope to see you all at the Symposium in November,

The Organizing Committee

Featured Speakers  


European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany

Symmetry breaking in mouse development  

A fundamental question in biology is the mechanism by which embryonic symmetry is broken and cells with distinct fates are specified. While in many organisms embryonic development begins under the control of mRNAs and proteins localized asymmetrically in the egg, mammalian eggs lack the polarity and thus symmetry has to be broken during pre-implantation development in which the blastocyst is formed with the inner cell mass and the trophectoderm.

Despite its importance, the molecular mechanism of symmetry breaking and blastocyst patterning has long been elusive. We have developed live-imaging and demonstrated unexpectedly high dynamicity and stochasticity during mouse pre-implantation development. We aim at understanding general principles and robustness underlying early mammalian development.


Takashi Hiiragi Graduated in Kyoto University in 2000, Takashi Hiiragi joined the laboratory of Davor Solter in Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology, Freiburg. Since 2002, he stayed there as a group leader, until in 2007 he moved to Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Muenster, as an independent group leader.

As a recipient of the European Research Council Starting Grant, Takashi recently moved to EMBL Heidelberg as a group leader. The primary research interest of his lab is a systems-level understanding of the symmetry breaking process in the mouse embryo.

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

Confronted with death of my friend in high-school, I wandered what would be the difference between alive and dead; and what would be the definition of life.

What attracted you to a career in Science?

Mysteries of life and development from one cell, the egg.

Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

Davor Solter – my role model to be a P.I.

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

In addition to Davor Solter, Shoichiro Tsukita made a big impact on my scientific attitude – watch and think.

What would you be if not a scientist?

A musician; either a pianist or a chellist.

What is the most promising direction in stem cell research?

Self-organization of the tissue based on the knowledge of embryonic development.

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

Study developmental biology first before working on stem cells.


second imageThe Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute for Science, Rehovot, Israel


The Epigenetic Stability of Pluripotent and Somatic Cell States  

The identity of somatic and pluripotent cells can be epigenetically reprogrammed and forced to adapt a new functional cell state by different methods and distinct combinations of exogenous factors. The aspiration to utilize such ex vivo reprogrammed pluripotent and somatic cells for therapeutic purposes necessitates understanding of the mechanisms of reprogramming and elucidating the extent of equivalence of the in vitro derived cells to their in vivo counterparts.

I will present and analyze our recent advances toward understanding these fundamental questions, and discuss the role of p53 tumor suppressor and RAS oncogenic pathways in influencing the characteristics of pluripotency and reprogramming. I will further highlight future possibilities for utilizing epigenetic reprogramming for experimental and theoretical modeling of gene expression regulation, cell fate decisions and early mammalian development.

Jacub Hanna earned a B.Sc. in Medical Sciences (2001, summa cum laude), and a PhD/MD in clinical medicine (2007, summa cum laude), all from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. For more than four years, he conducted postdoctoral research with Prof. Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical. In his recently established lab at the Weizmann Institute, Dr. Hanna combines diverse experimentation methods with computational biology to explore topics in embryonic stem cell biology, early embryonic development and the modeling of human diseases. Projects include deciphering the mechanisms by which IPS cells are produced, characterizing unique types of human pluripotent stem cells and various stages in early human development. His numerous honors and fellowships include a Novartis Fellowship by the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation (2007), a Genzyme-Whitehead Fellowship for outstanding postdoctoral fellows (2009), the TR35 award by MIT review magazine for young innovators (2010), a European Research Council early career development award (2011), the Rappaport prize in biomedical research (2013) and the Krill prize by the Wolf Foundation for outstanding research achievements (2013).

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

The role of TWIST in cancer formation a Cell paper by Robert Weinberg. That paper motivated me to focus on research rather than clinical residency.

What is your most memorable career achievement?

Uncovering that a single inhibitor is blocking iPSC reprogramming, and that we can make iPSC formation deterministic and synchronized. I believe this completely changes our future questions and how we look at this process.

What attracted you to a career in Science?

Innovation and creativity, it is like being an artist and experiments are my creation.

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

The work of Austin Smith, and his effort to give molecular definition and avoiding the use of obscure terms.

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

The work of Austin Smith, and his effort to give molecular definition and avoiding the use of obscure terms.

Which is the single most factor driving or inhibiting the broad clinical application of stem cells?

Lacking authentic ground state uniform naïve pluripotent stem cells.

What would you be if not a scientist/clinician?

Psychologist or Architect.

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

Most exciting field with so many unknowns.