This year Stem Cells Australia held its Annual Retreat in Werribee Park, just outside of Melbourne, at the historic former seminary now the Mansion Hotel built in 1874 by pioneering pastoralists.
Over three days and two nights, the 128 delegates participated in lively discussion, thought provoking presentations and passionate debates around stem cell science within the former sanctified corridors.
A major focus of this year’s Program was our talented students and early career researchers (ECRs). We had 27 PhD candidates, two Masters and two Honours students and one international intern attend with two sessions devoted to Students’ Project Overviews where students contested for three prizes. First prize was awarded to PhD Candidate, Duncan Crombie from CERA whose presentation was titled ‘Phenotypic abnormalities in Friedreich ataxia- cardiomyocytes’. another PhD Candidate from the School of BioSciences, UoM, was awarded second place with his presentation titled ‘Metabolic profiling identifies metabolically aberrant hESCs with delayed mesendoderm differentiation’. Third prize was awarded to Carlos Gantner from The Florey with his presentation titled ‘Neurotrophic support of transplanted dopamine neurons enhances motor recovery in a rodent Parkinsonian model’. The winner of the Annual Report cover was Nathan Palpant who submitted a stunning image of human embryonic stem cell derived cardiomyocytes.
All delegates were captivated by a special lecture from Prof David de Kretser AOM, Chair of our Governance Committee. In his ‘From Reproduction to Inflammation and Tissue Repair: You never know where research will take you’ David shared his extensive experience and the challenges involved in taking basic research from bench to bedside.
Amongst the many other fine presentations by our researchers and special guest lectures was Doug Sipp whom we hosted from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, Kobe, Japan. Doug Sipp’s ‘Communicating promise, risk and uncertainty in Stem Cell Research’ explored the complexities and pitfalls of scientific marketing and communications particularly the very serious and controversial non-regulated area of stem cell tourism. Doug’s presentation coincided with the release of the revised ISSCR Guidelines which set out the principles and best practices that should underpin progress in basic, translational, and clinical stem cell research. As with earlier guidelines, the 2016 ISSCR guidelines call for rigor, oversight, and transparency in all aspects of stem cell research as well as research integrity, patient welfare, and social justice. In particular they highlight the need for accurate and effective public communication.
We would like to thank all our delegates for an exceptional meeting and look forward to hearing more about their science and their progress next year!
Duncan Crombie Jarmon Lees