Illustration of stem cells

Hong Kong to host global stem cell conference

17 June 2024

Hong Kong has been selected to host the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) in 2025, which will for the first time bring the world’s best and brightest in stem cell research and regenerative medicine to the SAR to share the latest advances in their field.

“This is the largest stem cell organisation in the world, and bringing everyone here is unprecedented. It gives Hong Kong scientists, especially postgraduate and postdoctoral students, an opportunity to meet scientists from other regions,” said Kathryn Cheah, Emerita Chair of Biochemistry and Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong, who chaired the Hong Kong bid committee.

The University of Hong Kong, the University of Science and Technology, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong partnered to make the bid. They received the endorsement and promised support of the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Bureau and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Croucher Foundation committed funds to support an outreach programme for the participation of early-career researchers.

“For Hong Kong scientists, it’s an opportunity to not only meet the world’s leading stem cell researchers, but an opportunity to present their latest research and let the world know what has been happening here in Hong Kong. It’s really a major achievement for us to host this meeting,” said Cheah.

The selection was made after a competitive bidding process between several Asian cities. The meeting will take place on 11-14 June, 2025, at the Hong Kong Convention Centre. The 2024 event is being hosted by Hamburg, Germany this July.

Emphasis on Greater China

The bid committee emphasised that the event provides an opportunity for Mainland China’s large number of stem cell researchers, and the great breadth and depth of their work, to get exposure to the broader global research community. China’s Society for Stem Cell Research, a part of the Chinese Society of Cell Biology, has about 1,500 members, compared to the 4,000 global members in the ISSCR. Researchers from the Mainland and Hong Kong currently account for only about 4% of the membership of the ISSCR, creating significant untapped potential for increased Chinese participation in it.

“One of Hong Kong’s key selling points is the untapped membership potential in the region and the opportunity for the international stem cell community to learn about stem cell research taking place in Greater China, and vice versa. Because of the ease of coming to Hong Kong, many Mainland researchers can learn more about cutting-edge research, its translation and standards for the ethical application of stem cell therapies across the world without the major expense of international travel,” said Cheah.

The current interest in Greater Bay Area development and promotion of regional institutions also made Hong Kong an attractive host.

Committed to Inclusion and Diversity

Cheah was invited, along with Eugenia Piddini, a professor at Bristol University, to be co-Chairs of the ISSCR 2025 programme committee. They are working under the leadership of incoming ISSCR President Professor Valentina Greco and share a vision of emphasising inclusion and diversity: geographical, career stage, and gender, for the programme. They have assembled a programme committee of 10 track chairs from across the globe, from the US, UK, Brazil, Europe, India, Japan and China, who are shaping the individual tracks or strands of the programme with a commitment to applying the same principles of diversity and inclusivity in inviting the speakers.

The programme committee has also nominated early to mid-career researchers to act as judges in picking the research abstracts for the programme, in order to give them a greater voice in the event.

Cheah said there are also plans to host a half-day event before the main meeting in order to help educate the public on the advances and ethics of stem cell research.

Abstract submission and registration for ISSCR 2025, taking place 11-14 June 2025, will open on 2 October 2024. Abstracts submitted by 21 January 2025 will be considered for oral presentations and merit and travel awards.