Stem cell salons

From the ancient Greeks and Romans, to France during the Enlightenment, and the 20thcentury gathering rooms of Gertrude Stein and Ayn Rand, the salon has served as an erudite gathering of intellectuals with the express purpose of advancing knowledge through earnest discourse and the exchange of ideas. Far from those refined parlors, but with the same intent, HSCI has premiered the salon format to further scientific scholarship and foster collegial and collaborative relationships within its research community. Three salons are scheduled for this academic year.

On November 10, HSCI Principal Faculty members Anthony Rosenzweig, MD, and Richard Lee, MD, hosted a salon on iPS cells and technology to a standing room-only crowd at the Harvard Medical School. Konrad Hochedlinger, PhD, and Sean Wu, MD, PhD, shared their perspectives regarding the latest technology as well as the development, usefulness, and potential therapeutic application of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Laurence Daheron, PhD, head of HSCI’s iPS Core Facility, spoke to the group about the capabilities of the new core facility, how it operated, and how it could accelerate the work of the community.

At Massachusetts General Hospital on January 26, Executive Committee members David Scadden, MD, and Jerome Ritz, MD, co-hosted a salon that challenged attendees to consider the usefulness of mesenchymal stem cells for therapy. Guest discussants Robert Soiffer, MD, and Richard Lee, MD, reviewed current clinical trials and provided their perspectives on the issues in the field. Ruth McKernan, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer for Regenerative Medicine at Pfizer, provided context from the commercial viewpoint. Using a game she developed that gave people 12 million “dollars” to invest, attendees broke up into teams to deliberate the potential therapeutic options they would finance if they were the Chief Scientific Officer of a biotechnology company.

In the true spirit of a salon, the active dialogue of the discussion periods and the collegial nature of the networking sessions that followed each illustrated the unique power of the HSCI community to advance scientific thought.

This spring, Amy Wagers, PhD, and Lee Rubin, PhD, will host a salon on the topic, “Regulating the Differentiation State of Cells.”