Conference report: Future Investigators of Regenerative Medicine 2017

In this conference report, Gianluca Cidonio (University of Southampton, UK) looks back on the 2017 FIRM symposium (25-27 September, Girona, Spain).

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Oct 11, 2017
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FIRM (Future Investigators of Regenerative Medicine) symposium is a meeting organized by early career fellow for PhD students and post-doctoral researchers that work in the field of RegenMed. 

Unlike usual regenerative medicine symposium, FIRM 2017 gave delegates the unique chance to not only present their recent work through oral and poster presentations, but also ask questions and informally chat with workshop and keynote speakers that are more than happy to interact with students. FIRM 2013, 2014 and 2016 were a huge success in terms of participants delegates (in 2016, circa 60 delegates participated), new prosperous collaborations and networking interactions.

This September, FIRM 2017 covered diverse aspect of the Regenerative Medicine, scheduling a particular topic of interest along a single day. On first day (with Fundamental Biology as main topic) started with Dr Eric Hill (Aston University, UK) presenting well-established and innovative neuronal and Alzheimer modelling. Biomaterials of clinical interest were brilliantly illustrated during the second day by Prof Stephen Badylak (Pittsburgh, USA) who reported to FIRM delegates and attendees a successful biological approach on how to create biomaterials for multi-tissue regeneration purposes, targeting directly current clinical translation issues.

On the next day Robert Preti (CEO of PCT, Hitachi group company) talked to delegates about cell therapy commercialization and technical structure and aims of his company. With an interesting point of view, Bob illustrated his emerging idea of industry giving an overview of his view of personalized medicine. Following, Professor David Eglin (AO Foundation, Switzerland) showed his research on enabling technologies for regenerative medicine looking bone repair and addressing current clinical needs by the used of bioactive hydrogels and 3D printing technologies. With similar approach, Prof Alvaro Mata (QMUL, UK) showed innovative approaches for regenerative medicine using peptide self-assembling technology. During the final day, Prof Ivan Wall also talked about novel cell-based therapy explaining a more biologically-focused approach on how to approach regenerative medicine challenges.

Throughout the whole conference, workshops’ speakers instructed delegates on different topics such as the nature of publishing (Pep Pamies, editor for Nature Biomedical Engineering), imaging tools for regenerative medicine (Prof Erik Shapiro, University of Michigan), careers in industry (Robert Preti, PCT) and in academia (Prof Karen Coopman, Loughborough University). Thanks to these instructive workshop, attendees where drive to talk to invited keynotes, asking for questions not only during talk sessions but also along refreshment breaks and time off at the end of the day. Stimulating this informal environment during breaks, this year committee managed to create such a thriving environment where delegates where free from the classical “fear-of-keynotes” that could be manifested during top-field conference. 

Having a heterogeneous mixture of UK-based and international delegates from across the world, FIRM was a meeting that united early career researchers which discussed their scientific projects and plans in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Well-known keynotes figure in the field of the regenerative medicine, helped delegates to understand more about possibilities about job-hunting in the academic or industrial field. A panel discussion gathered all the invited speakers together at a single table where, together with delegates, discussed “what is the future of regenerative medicine” going from CRISPR till CAR-T cells technologies, then from decellularization to 3D printing approaches. Quite a diverse blend of researchers came together this September to celebrate the diversity and future of regenerative medicine, aiming one day to be real part of this futuristic field.

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