In June, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) co-sponsored the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. Held virtually for the first time, the conference brought together close to 4,000 scientists from 59 countries to discuss the latest in stem cell research.
David Scadden, co-director of HSCI, opened the conference by welcoming attendees and encouraging researchers to apply their expertise in stem cell science to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: “This has been a time of great crisis and upheaval that has really reminded us of the extraordinary power and urgency of life science research. It’s up to those of us in science to think creatively about ways in which we can leverage the work we’ve been doing in areas that perhaps have been only tangentially related to an outbreak, and think about ways in which we can have an impact.”
Researchers attended over 300 presentations during the five-day conference, including featured sessions by HSCI scientists in recognition of their outstanding work. Among them, Allon Klein, recipient of the ISSCR Dr. Susan Lim Award for Outstanding Young Investigator, presented his genomics research on tracking cells over time to understand how they develop. Brian Wainger presented the John McNeish Memorial Lecture, sharing the results of his successful clinical trial for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The conference also included a special session on COVID-19. After a vaccine development update from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, HSCI scientist Jayaraj Rajagopal shared his latest work.
“As soon as coronavirus began to become such a threat, a large-scale international effort started with the Human Cell Atlas,” Rajagopal said. “All the groups that were involved decided to come together and pool single-cell datasets, so that we could have the statistical power to really figure out the cellular mechanisms that were operating in this disease.”
Although the conference was originally planned to be held in HSCI’s home city of Boston, the virtual meeting enabled a broader range of scientists than might otherwise have been possible from around the world to connect, share their research, and advance the field during these critical times.
Read the ISSCR’s recap of the 2020 annual meeting.