The 6th edition of the BIST Conference took place last week, with its main day dedicated to the topic of precision medicine, and satellite sessions focusing on current issues within art and science, and diversity in STEM careers. A third satellite session, which took place in the framework of the 2022 Setmana de la Ciència, was devoted to sharing precision medicine research projects from the BIST Community with high school students.
In total, more than 250 people from the BIST Community and its stakeholders, and 2000 high school students participated in the 2022 BIST Conference.
An entire day to share research advancements in precision medicine
On November 10th, the BIST Conference main day took place at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB). As in previous editions, the main day was devoted to a key research area for BIST, this year focusing on precision medicine.
The day kicked off with a welcome by Joan Guinovart, IRB Barcelona Emeritus Professor and BIST Dolors Aleu Graduate Centre Academic Director, who highlighted the outstanding research in precision medicine that is done by the BIST Community, including some of the recent advances in colorectal cancer and diabetes. The new BIST Director, Eduard Vallory, addressed the BIST Community with words of encouragement to keep working hard to investigate some of the most prevalent diseases in the world today. BIST Director of Programmes, Núria Bayó, then presented a new programme to promote women leadership in science and introduced the “la Caixa” Foundation–BIST Chemical Biology Programme, which aims to build an ecosystem to foster research excellence for improving health and has been running since 2021. Irene Marco Rius, IBEC Group Leader within this programme, spoke about the research she leads, which aims to implement hyperpolarised magnetic resonance (HP-MR) to monitor metabolism in organ-on-a-chip devices.
Geoff Macintyre, Group Leader at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), gave a very engaging keynote talk entitled Enabling pan-cancer precision medicine, in which he presented a comprehensive framework to decode chromosomal instability -the accumulation of large-scale losses, gains, and rearrangements of DNA in cancer cells- facilitating new drug discovery, improved patient stratification for targeted therapies, and precision use of classic cytotoxic chemotherapies.
The conference also included selected flash talks and posters by BIST Community PhD students, postdocs, and researchers, as well as investigators from other research centres in the Barcelona area. A panel of jurors comprised by Joffrey Pelletier, Postdoctoral Fellow at IRB Barcelona, Javier Ramon Azcon, Group Leader at IBEC, and Lydia Sanmartí, ICFO’s KTT Outreach Coordinator, announced the awards for the best flash talk and poster, which were given respectively to Mirabai Cuenca-Ardura, PhD Student at CRG, and Ainhoa Ferret, staff member at IBEC.
The afternoon continued with a lively conversation about how to put precision medicine discoveries to work, moderated by Cayetano González, Group Leader at IRB Barcelona and member of the BIST Conference Scientific Committee, and with the participation of Emma Blasi (Alexion), Julio Delgado (Hospital Clínic, UB), Roger Gomis (IRB Barcelona), and Salvador Macip (University of Leicester, OUC). Topics including the price of CAR-T therapies, the regulatory process for new therapies (different from traditional small-drugs), and successful examples such as the patient stratification in breast cancer based on HER2 expression, made this a provocative and engaging session.
The conference closed with remarks by Gabby Silberman, outgoing BIST Director General who served at the helm of the institute from 2017 to October 2022 and delivered a heartfelt and inspiring message about the power of bringing together the outstanding people that comprise the BIST Community.
Art and diversity in the STEM ecosystem
On the 8th and 9th of November, two satellite events took place online. In the first, multimedia artist Antoni Muntadas, CNIO Director Maria A. Blasco, and ICFO PhD Student Lorenzo Orsini presented their varying experiences and views about intermingling art and science. The roundtable was moderated by ICIQ Head of Science Outreach Laura Hernández.
The other session included three women scientists and activists: Bibiana Campos-Seijo, Editor-in-Chief of Chemical & Engineering News, Judith Juanhuix, Section Head of the ALBA Synchrotron, and Jess Wade, Research Fellow at the Imperial Colleges. They shared data and insights around gender bias and presented initiatives they lead to help close the gender gap in research. Other subtle discriminations and social contexts that are impeding minority groups to participate in STEM careers were also discussed. The roundtable was moderated by Robert Sewell, Head of Academic Affairs at ICFO and SPIE@ICFO Chair for Diversity in Photonic Sciences. Attendees participated with questions and expressed their enthusiasm and gratitude to the speakers.
Science outreach by young researchers in the BIST Community
The final day of the BIST Conference, November 11th, was also the first day of the 2022 Setmana de la Ciència, a week full of activities aimed at bringing science closer to society. On this day, three young researchers, Xavier Hernandez Alias, PhD Student at CRG; Alba Herrero Gómez, PhD Student at IBEC; and Eduard Masvidal Codina, Postdoc at ICN2, shared their passions and research projects with high school students in an online event moderated by Elena Meléndez, Outreach Coordinator at IRB Barcelona.
The researchers explained in an easy-to-understand and engaging manner the research projects they work on (all related to precision medicine) and answered questions from the students, who discovered than in addition to doing science, the researchers also had many hobbies and abilities!
The BIST Conference was made possible this year thanks to the many people from the BIST Community who collaborated. Among them are the members of the Conference Scientific and Organizing Committees: Jorge Ferrer and Glòria Lligades from CRG; Núria Montserrat and Irene Marco Rius from IBEC; Turgut Durduran and Lydia Sanmartí from ICFO; Mónica H. Pérez-Temprano from ICIQ; José A. Garrido, Víctor Puntes and Àlex Argemí from ICN2; Patrick Aloy and Cayetano Gonzalez from IRB Barcelona, and Zoila Babot, Marta Llorens, and Gabby Silberman from the BIST Core Team. A special thanks to this outstanding team and to all speakers and moderators who were part of the conference.
Videos from the Satellite Events will be made available soon on the BIST YouTube channel.