Nearly 500 scientists, business leaders, and students met April 27 in Hartford for StemConn2015. Held every two years, StemConn is Connecticut’s premier conference on Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine research.
The enthusiastic audience, the largest ever for a StemConn conference, was welcomed by Connecticut officials, including Governor Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut State Representative Lonnie Reed, and Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra.
StemConn2015 marked the anniversary of Connecticut’s bold decision 10 years ago to encourage stem cell research via $100 million in state funding, giving Connecticut researchers a jump start in a critical biomedical area. Today Connecticut is a world-leader in stem cell research, and UConn, Wesleyan, and Yale each have significant programs in place.
“The expansion of research towards clinical developments in this area has been remarkable,” said UConn’s Dr. Caroline Dealy, organizing chair of the conference. “We heard from researchers who are using stem cells to restore vision, to build bio-scaffolds, and to one day treat diseases like spinal injury, lung disease, and bone defects.”
Researchers are also understanding how the body’s own stem cells may be stimulated to heal tissue damage. “Much of the research in Regenerative Medicine is aimed at using adult stem cells now,” Dealy said.
More than 100 college and high school students participated in the StemConn2015 event as part of an education and public outreach initiative. Graduate students and fellows presented an extensive poster session, and students had the opportunity to meet with the invited speakers over lunch. “Our students had a fantastic time at the Conference,” said Tom Vrabel, a teacher at the Trumbull Agriscience Biotechnology High School. “Exposures such as this can change their life paths”.
This year’s event featured a special Commercialization and Translation session highlighting Connecticut’s entrepreneurial activities in bioscience. Dr. Susan Froshauer, president and CEO of CURE, the state’s bioscience cluster, points out that that the state’s original $100 million has proved a fertile investment. “We have tripled that, in terms of the amount of money that these researchers have brought into Connecticut,” Froshauer says.