Austin Smith talk at #ISSCR2016: a ground state inhibitor pathway

ISSCR 2016’s first plenary session is focused on stem cells & cancer. I was really excited about this one even before the meeting as this topic is a major focus of my own lab.

ISSCR 2016 packed house

Here’s the lineup for this plenary with great expertise in stem cells & cancer from across the globe:

  • President’s Address: Sean Morrison, Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern, USA
  • 2016 McEwen Award for Innovation Presentation: jointly, Austin Smith, Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research and Institute for Stem Cell Biology, UK and Qi-Long Ying, University of Southern California, USA
  • 2016 McEwen Award Lecture:  Austin Smith, Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research and Institute for Stem Cell Biology, UK 
  • John Dick, University Health Network, Canada
  • Irving L. Weissman,  Stanford University, USA
  • Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University, USA
  • Pier Paolo Pandolfi, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, USA

In blogging this, the post will be more of a stream of consciousness and notes so keep that in mind as you read. This particular post will primarily focus on Austin Smith’s talk.

Before Dr. Smith spoke, ISSCR President Sean Morrison told us that this is the largest ISSCR meeting by far in terms of attendees. He also highlighted ISSCR policy programs including the importance of unimpeded research including fetal research, which has had a major, positive impact. Next came some words from the Chair of CIRM, Jonathan Thomas (JT) about the focus of CIRM moving forward. He talked about the bold, exciting goal of funding 50 clinical trials.

The McEwen Award was given to Smith and Qi-Long Ying. Congrats to them!

Dr. Smith gave the award lecture with the title “Escape the ground state.” 2i/LIF mESCs are true ES cells and the same is true for rat ES cells made in this way. He focused on the ground state network. When the network activity winds down the ES cells move toward commitment and the MAP kinase pathway is activated. They screened for more commitment factors using a Rex1-GFP reporter. This screen ID’d other factors that inhibit the ground state network including NuRD.

What’s ERK doing here? They found this interesting factor called Etv5 downstream of ERK. Etv5 is within the PEA3 subfamily of Ets factors. Etv5 and Etv4 are induced during differentiation of ES cells (16-25 hours). Etv5 is also relatively highly expressed in the ES cells, while Etv4 is much higher after differentiation. Etv4/5 double knockdown impairs transition to differentiation. The Etv4/5 knockdown leads to continued colony formation even within the differentiation context. They also did knockout work finding the same outcomes. Like Etv4/5, Etv5 and Tcf3 knockouts don’t differentiate properly. An overall conclusion of this part of the talk–Etv4/5 are central targets of FGF/ERK pathway that mediate progression away from naive pluripotency.

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Stem Cell Person of Year Award 2015 Top 12 Finalists

The voters have “spoken” and below is the list of the top 12 vote getters from the larger pool of nominees for Stem Cell Person of the Year in 2015. These are some amazing people.

Look for more information, such as mini-bios, soon on some of the top finalists.

There were nearly 4,700 votes in total.

Now I have the tough task of picking from this dozen just one winner, who will receive the recognition as the top stem cell outside the box innovator of 2015 and of course the $2,000 prize.Stem Cell Person of the Year 2015 Award Nominees