Greetings from the International Cytokine and Interferon Society! I hope you and your family are staying safe during these still challenging times. Thankfully 2020 is behind us now. We have lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, an event that will continue to impact our lives for some time and likely alter how we live in the future. Despite the obvious difficulties of this past year, I can’t help but marvel at the scientific advances that have been made. With everything from COVID-19 testing, to treatments and especially to the rapid pace of vaccine development, we are so better off today than even a few months back. The approval of remarkably effective COVID-19 vaccines now rolling out in the US, Israel, UK, Europe and across the globe, brings light at the end of the tunnel. The work of many of you has helped shape our understanding of the host response to Sars-CoV2 and the ability of this virus to limit antiviral immunity while simultaneously driving a cytokine driven hyperinflammatory response leading to deadly consequences for patients. The knowledge gained from all of your efforts has been put to good use to stem the threat of this deadly virus. Cytokines and interferons are somewhat mainstream terminology now, which can only be a good thing for the future of our society.
It is an honor to serve as the President of the ICIS. While an unusual time to be president, I am nonetheless excited about the future of this wonderful society. I especially want to thank Christopher Hunter, President-Elect and Joan Oefner, managing director of the society. We are a team in all that we do. I want to thank the ICIS Council and all who serve on our committees for their ongoing service. I see the impact of your work on the society and appreciate your time and commitment to our efforts.
As ICIS embraces the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we are making important progress toward the vision of a forward-looking and inclusive organization. We realize that we are just at the beginning of the journey, and the Council have set the goal to focus on improving DEI among our members in the coming years. As a starting point our meeting organizers, scientific programs and society committees are now more balanced in terms of gender and geographical diversity. Improving representation by those underrepresented in science and medicine is a major goal. To that end, we have amended our bylaws to add two Council members for Inclusion and Training elected in alternating 2-year terms. We encourage interested members to reach out to learn more about this initiative. I also encourage any members interested in participating on one of our committees and serving the society to reach out to me or Joan.
In November 2020, the Society hosted the virtual meeting Cytokines 2020 in Seattle which was a great success and brought a large number of new members to the society, especially increasing student/postdoc memberships. I encourage all our members to stay engaged, maximize the benefits of the society and support the ICIS by renewing your membership for 2021 if you have not already done so. Plans are well underway for our annual meeting in Cardiff. I am very much looking forward to this and hope many of us can be there in person. Simon Jones and colleagues are working hard and have created a spectacular program which you will hear about later in this newsletter. We hope that many of you will join us in-person in Cardiff, but understand this may not be possible depending where different countries are in terms of vaccinations. A hybrid virtual platform is planned to ensure participation is possible regardless. Luke O’Neill’s band, The Metabollix, will be playing with special guests live at the Cytokines 2021 Networking and the event will be live streamed to our virtual audience as well.
Further, plans are well underway for future meetings in Hawaii (2022), Greece (2023), Korea (2024) and Seattle (2025). I want to thank Brendan Jenkins for guiding all of these meeting planning efforts. I encourage members to step-up and reach out to Brendan to discuss organizing future meetings. The Society remains committed to providing a family friendly environment at these annual meetings. We will be providing complimentary childcare support to allow our fellow scientists with young children the opportunity to attend our meetings and social events.
I also want to provide an update on ICIS awards. As many of you know the Milstein family have supported our society for more than 30 years with the Milstein Awards. We are incredibly grateful for their support for the last 32 years. Support for travel awards was carried over from last year and will finish after the Cardiff meeting. We have been working very hard to identify alternate donors who can support both the Senior ICIS annual award, Young Investigator Awards and the travel awards. Pfizer, a long-time major sponsor of the ICIS, has entered into a grant agreement with the Society to fund the ICIS-Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research (formerly the Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award from 1988 – 2020). In addition to funding this senior researcher award representing the pinnacle of scientific achievement in interferon and cytokine research since 1988, Pfizer will also sponsor four trainee awards for promising research presentations at the Cytokines Annual Meetings.
We have also reached an agreement for New Investigator Awards for Excellence in Cytokine & Interferon Research, (formerly the Milstein Young Investigator Awards). More details about the sponsor and award amounts will be announced soon. I am also pleased to announce a new ICIS mentoring award. The newly established ICIS Mentorship Award recognizes ICIS members who have made significant and sustained contributions to the career development of trainees and to the profession through outstanding mentoring. This award is based on the training experiences and success of the nominee’s mentees, not the mentor’s personal career achievements. For the purpose of this award, mentoring is defined as the process of guiding, supporting, and promoting the training and career development of others. A minimum of three mentees will write a supporting letter on how this person has impacted their development, career and lives. Please nominate your mentors now as this award is actively recruiting candidates for consideration.
In closing, I want to thank you for being a member of the ICIS and supporting our field. As a society, we have a lot to do. We will continue to voice your concerns, advocate for scientific research, advance the training of students and post-doctoral fellows, and sustain the progress of our field in this era of breathtaking opportunity.
I look forward to seeing you all in Cardiff.
Stay safe and be well.