The results are in, and it’s official. The Athens ICIS meeting in October rocked! We have compiled answers from the survey of attendees, which confirmed our own feelings about the success of this conference. Kudos to Drs. George Pavlakis and Vangelis Andreakos for leading such a terrific event. The “proof of the pudding” is that over 95% of attendees plan to come to another Cytokines meeting based on their experience in Greece.
Sarah Gaffen, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
As I pen my first ICIS President’s letter, I want to start by sending a heartfelt thanks to the inimitable Chris Hunter, who served as ICIS President for the last two years. It is not exaggerating to say that it is a genuine honor (not to mention slightly intimidating) to step into his shoes. Chris expertly shepherded the ICIS back to in-person meetings after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Hawaii 2022 and Athens 2023 were both enormous successes, showing that we are back, bigger and better than ever.
As the ICIS gathers in Athens for our annual meeting this should have been a moment to reflect on the events of the last four years, and I will do that. At the time I drafted this letter we were expecting 9 in-person participants from Israel including the 2023 Honorary Lifetime Membership Award winner, Daniela Novick and invited speaker Ido Amit, both from Weizmann Institute of Science, as well as long-time ICIS member and Symposium presenter, Raymond Kaempfer and Lightning Talk presenter Amiram Ariel, both from University of Haifa. As far as we know, all of our Israeli participants are safe and we extend our deepest concern to them and their families, friends and colleagues and everyone affected by the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts revolve now around what they are going through even as we are now packing our suitcases and making final updates to our presentations.
With only 4.5 months till our Annual Meeting in Athens this would be a great time to encourage Early-Bird registrations (June 28th deadline) and Late Breaking abstract submissions (deadline August 31st) and we remain dedicated to providing support for our trainees. The organizers invited speakers program has come along nicely – but abstracts remain an important source of the speakers chosen and they will be included in the program in the coming days. It is also our awards season – and this year we had an exceptional slate of candidates for our Senior & Mid-Career awards (Judy Lieberman, Daniel Cua, Dusan Bogunovic, Jacob Yount, Daniela Novick and Brendan Jenkins), while we have had a record number of nominees for the junior awards (to be announced soon). Important opportunity to acknowledge those who took the time to nominate these candidates and the work of our awards committee in assessing these amazing cytokine biologists.
It’s an unfortunate but well-documented fact that bias against women is rampant in the professional world (not just academia). Although I have been more fortunate than many of my female peers in this regard, I have certainly experienced this, mostly in little ways, though occasionally in jaw-droppingly big ones. Two examples will suffice. As a grad student in the early 1990s, a PI of a neighboring lab told me, “Women shouldn’t try to do science because to be successful, you need a wife.” Sadly, this type of thinking is not ancient history. A few years ago, I was slated to give a major talk at a prestigious conference alongside two men. Upon seeing the program, a senior individual at my institution said, “I see that you are the X-chromosome invitation.” Importantly, men are not the only perpetrators of such bias; women are just as likely to negatively judge other women and unconsciously reward or favor men.
As we prepare for our annual scientific meeting in Hawaii (www.hawaii.cytokinesociety.org) it is important to recognize the efforts of the organizing committee, chaired by James Turkson (Cedars Sinai Medical Center), to assemble a diverse scientific program with cutting edge research. For many of us, this will be our first in-person scientific meeting since the start of the COVID pandemic and will be an opportunity to reunite with international colleagues. The ability to hold this meeting in parallel with ILC4 and the Interferon lambda community workshop highlights the continued interest in cytokine biology. This is reflected in the overwhelming levels of sponsorship support that have been provided by our partners from biotech, pharma, scientific vendors, and foundations. This sponsorship has allowed the ICIS to provide 100 travel awards for trainees – an unprecedented recognition of the number and quality of abstracts submitted. ..
As my official term as ICIS President started in October of 2021 I’d like to offer a special thank you to Sarah Gaffen (President-Elect), and Joan Oefner and Elizabeth Gray, who manage the affairs of the society for the support they have already shown. Thank you also to the ICIS Council, and all of the dedicated individuals who serve on our committees for their ongoing service. Thank you to Simon Jones and his co-organizers for taking on the challenge of our first “hybrid” meeting, and for organizing a wonderful program for the 2021 meeting in Cardiff. Of course, the inspirational leadership and patience shown by outgoing President Kate Fitzgerald over the last two years has provided a template for the society and helped to set our priorities.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as President of the ICIS. I want to express my gratitude to you all for your membership and the continued success of our conferences.
It has certainly been a unique time to lead the Society over the last two years. It seems in many ways, a seismic shift has occurred in all aspects of our lives, changing the way we live, work, and commune with each other. Yet despite the challenges, we see the progress and effectiveness of COVID-19 testing, vaccines that have been widely administered in the United States, Europe and around the world, and the hope of vaccines for young children and boosters on the horizon. The work of many of you has helped to continue to inform the response and treatments for this insidious virus. With variants continuing to surge, your work remains critically important as we continue to combat this and other emerging viruses in the future.