Year 1

The 2013 World Alliance Forum in San Francisco, “Future of Stem Cells,” was greatly successful, bringing over 250 participants, who are high-level professionals from a wide range of organizations in academic, nonprofit, governmental, and business sectors. The speakers at the event included the most distinguished leaders in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine, such as Nobel laureates Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and Dr. Paul Berg, Irving Weissman, Hiro Nakauchi, Hideyuki Okano, and Deepak Srivastava.

The researchers shared the progresses on their recent and most exciting projects, including Dr. Nakauchi’s research to create transplantable human organs in pigs, Dr. Okano’s project on a regenerative therapy for spinal cord injuries with iPS cell-derived neural stem cells, and Dr. Srivasava’s regenerative method for damaged cardiac cells.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Yamanaka spoke of creating an iPSC bank covering 50% of the Japanese population by 2018, utilizing HLA homozygous donors’ iPSCs. This would greatly help drug development processes and clinical trials.

What made the 2013 World Alliance Forum in San Francisco unique was that the conference addressed questions to make stem-cell technologies available to patients. The first panel discussion moderated by Dr. Mahendra Rao on new business opportunities in the field of regenerative medicine highlighted there is a need for quality iPSCs and/or differentiated cells to be used in drug development and disease modeling, while showing various companies and new business opportunities available thanks to the development of regenerative medicine.

The second panel, addressing collaboration between academia and industry, was moderated by Dr. Regis Kelly. The panelists represented both research institutes and pharmaceutical companies and agreed that, in order to make more discoveries and technologies available at the clinical level, a gap exists between academia and industry. Particularly in the field of stem cells but true in others, a funding and collaborative focus on translational research is what seems to be falling short.

The final panel concluding the conference was moderated by Dr. Alan Trounson and participated by Dr. Berg, Dr. Yamanaka, Dr. Weissman, Dr. Nakauchi, Dr. Okano, and Dr. Srivastava. While the panelists confirmed and agreed on how significant and impactful stem-cell discoveries and technologies are, they recognized that our understanding of stem cells is far from being complete. This unique panel also asked global consequences of stem-cell development, to which Dr. Yamanaka responded that it is our obligation to make drugs and therapies available to people in the developing world.

In sum, we can conclude that the 2013 World Alliance Forum in San Francisco, bringing together many layers of companies and professionals involved in the development of stem cells and regenerative medicine, was a great success.