Leaders of faith, science, and government from around the world gathered in Vatican City from April 11 to 13, 2013, for The Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference: Regenerative Medicine – A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture. The event, hosted by NeoStem, Inc., and the Pontifical Council for Culturealong with their affiliated foundations, SFLF and STOQ International, was the next step in an historic ongoing partnership between the organizations to foster an open dialogue amongst researchers, physicians, faith leaders and policy-makers and identify how cellular therapies can treat chronic disease throughout the world and reduce human suffering.
Coming off the success of the first Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference in 2011, this event received attention from renowned journalists who served as moderators, including Meredith Vieira from NBC, Bill Hemmer from The Fox News Channel, Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal, and Dr. Max Gomez from WCBS-TV.
Leaders in the joint initiative organized the event, including His Eminence Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Dr. Robin Smith, Chairman and CEO of NeoStem and Chairman and President of SFLF; and Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, Head of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s Science and Faith Department.
Dr. John Gurdon, 2012 Nobel Prize Laureate for Physiology or Medicine, was the keynote speaker for the event and discussed his work in developing induced pluripotent stem cell technology. Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, spoke out in support of the initiative to look for ways to treat injuries, such as her traumatic brain injury, using adult stem cells.
The conference highlighted many diseases where adult stem cell therapies are showing promising results as well as areas where their development is just beginning. Dr. Max Gomez led a discussion of current uses and biological principles in stem cell transplants for treatment of leukemias, other cancers, and non-malignancies.
Some of the world’s leading researchers for multiple sclerosis using cell therapy spoke about their therapies in development.
A panel highlighted the exciting progress being made with adult stem cell therapies to treat cardiovascular disease. Leading physicians from Europe and America along with representatives from global biotech companies discussed on-going clinical trials and debated the pros and cons of autologous versus allogeneic approaches.
Bill Hemmer moderated a panel examining the latest developments in organ and tissue regeneration,
including stem cell supported tracheal transplantation, the use of stem cells in knee osteoarthritis, and skin repair using cellular material.
Dr. Martin Bednar of Pfizer moderated a panel of leaders looking at adult stem cell treatments for brain and spinal injury. The panel included Dr. Dong Kim, surgeon for Gabrielle Giffords, among others.
More than 20% of the health care dollars in the U.S. is spent on the care of people with diagnosed diabetes. Three researchers looked at how adult stem cells and other cellular therapies offer the opportunity to develop cost-effective therapeutic strategies.
Anti-aging, longevity, and epigenetics researchers explored the current investigations underway into the role of adult stem cells in prolonging life. This included a unique look at patients with Laron syndrome and their absence of cancer and diabetes.
As opposed to a strictly scientific conference, the Vatican event looked at the implications of adult stem cell science from a variety of perspectives.
A discussion on ‘The Politics, Perceptions & Promise’ of stem cell therapies was held with Tommy Thompson, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, former Senator Norm Coleman, former President’s Council on Bioethics member William Hurlbut, and moderator Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal.
Other speakers discussed the importance of education and ethical questions relaed to both scientific discovery and the cellular future wherein adult stem cell treatments become standard of care.
Robin Young, an analyst for the stem cell industry, looked decades into the future to consider the impact of adult stem cells becoming a routine treatment for hundreds of millions of patients.
Attendees of the conference left with a new or renewed understanding of the progress being made in adult stem cell research, the real effect on patients, and the impact that this cellular revolution will have on all areas of life and culture.
SFLF would again like to take this opportunity to thank its supporters. Were it not for the generous support of many organizations and individuals, this conference would not have been possible. See page 12 for a list of major conference supporters.