Over the past several years the Vatican has held and tried to hold different stem cell meetings. The 2012 attempt ending in disarray amidst a heated controversy amongst Catholics with differing views on embryonic stem cell research. That meeting was cancelled and rebooted to 2013, when by all accounts a successful meeting took place.
The planned 2016 meeting is called Cellular Horizons (or more specifically “Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact” and is focused generally on adult stem cells. More specifically the emphasis for the meeting seems to be on pediatric disease and cancer. It will be held April 28-30.
The listed speakers for this meeting include some outstanding scientists such as Ron DePinho, Joanne Kurtzberg, and Tak Mak.
It also has its share of politicians and celebrities including Tommy Thomson, Bill Frist, Robin Roberts, and Katie Couric, However, there are many names on the speaker list that are entirely unknown (to me at least). I’m interested to learn more about them.
I’m also curious how this meeting will go under the new leadership of Pope Francis . The past controversy about the 2012 meeting related in part to its invitations to some stem cell scholars whose labs conduct some embryonic stem cell research. It is unfortunate that the Vatican meeting cannot be more inclusive, but it is after all their meeting and there’s a lot to be excited about related to adult stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine. Still with only a sliver of the stem cell/regenerative medicine community represented, it is difficult to imagine how one of the key stated goals of uniting people without prejudice in the stem cell field will be possible.