From left, philanthropists Kin-Chung and Amy Choi with Andy McMahon, chair of the executive committee of USC Stem Cell (Photo by Steve Cohn

From left, philanthropists Kin-Chung and Amy Choi with Andy McMahon, chair of the executive committee of USC Stem Cell (Photo by Steve Cohn

In recognition of its growing stature as an incubator for the biosciences, Los Angeles will be the host city for the 2019 International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Conference. With the generous support of the Choi Family, USC Stem Cell will co-host the conference, and the city-owned Los Angeles Convention Center will serve as the venue.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the International Society for Stem Cell Research to Los Angeles for the first time ever and look forward to their 17th annual meeting in 2019,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “L.A. is the latest and most innovative bioscience hotspot in the state, and ISSCR’s choice is a reflection of the scientific advances occurring in our city today.”

Previous host cities include Barcelona, Boston, San Francisco, Stockholm, Toronto, Vancouver, Yokohama and Philadelphia.

ISSCR CEO Nancy Witty added, “Los Angeles offers a rich scientific and cultural backdrop for the ISSCR’s 2019 meeting and we were delighted by the enthusiasm we received from local government, the biotech industry and the scientific and health communities. We are excited to have USC Stem Cell’s world-class scientists as our co-sponsor, and we are grateful to Mr. Kin-Chung Choi for his generous support to make this possible.”

As a leader in promoting these scientific advances, USC Stem Cell is a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort working to translate the potential of stem cell research to the clinical imperative of regenerative medicine. The initiative brings together nearly 100 research and clinical faculty members from across the university.

Hong Kong-based businessman and philanthropist Kin-Chung Choi has been a strong supporter of USC Stem Cell, and he extended his “thanks to USC for giving me this rare opportunity to support stem cell researchers from all over the world.”

Rohit Varma, interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, underscored how the conference will benefit not only stem cell researchers, but also the patients they will ultimately serve.

“We are honored to welcome the international community of leading stem cell researchers to the 2019 ISSCR Conference in Los Angeles,” he said. “By bringing together these exceptional scientific minds, the conference will serve as an incubator for new ideas and research collaborations, which will eventually translate into better, more creative therapies for patients.”

As chair of the executive committee of USC Stem Cell, Andy McMahon expressed his thanks to those who helped bring the conference to Los Angeles.

“I would like to acknowledge the key role of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and the Choi family in our successful bid to put L.A. on the major science meeting circuit,” he said. “We are delighted to extend our warmest welcome to the wide range of visionaries and leaders who will be attending this event, which will be a great opportunity to highlight research at USC and our sister institutions across the region.”

In addition to being the home of USC, L.A. and the surrounding area is the location of several other major research universities, institutions, academic medical centers and hospitals, including: the California Institute of Technology; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA); City of Hope; University of California, Irvine (UCI); University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); University of California, Riverside (UCR); and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

The leaders of these institutions agree on the tremendous value of bringing this important international meeting to L.A.

UCLA’s Owen Witte, CHLA’s David Warburton and City of Hope’s John Zaia see the conference as a way to bring together and showcase researchers throughout the L.A. area.

“We’re looking forward to the 2019 ISSCR annual meeting and are excited that it will take place in Los Angeles. This is a great opportunity to showcase for the world the cutting-edge stem cell research happening in Southern California,” said Witte, founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics.

“L.A. is a major hub for research and advanced therapeutic innovation for regenerative solutions,” added Warburton, director of Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine at The Saban Research Institute of CHLA and professor of pediatrics, surgery and craniofacial molecular biology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

Zaia — the Aaron D. Miller and Edith Miller Chair in Gene Therapy, institutional official for research, and professor of pediatrics at City of Hope — agreed: “Los Angeles is one of the leading areas for stem cell research. Bringing the ISSCR meeting here is a wonderful opportunity for all of our investigators.”

At the conference, these L.A.-area investigators will be able to interact with colleagues from all reaches of the globe, said Art Torres, vice chair of the board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the agency charged with dispensing $3 billion in voter-approved funds to stem cell researchers throughout the state.

“We are excited that over 4,000 stem cell scientists will be coming to Los Angeles to share new ideas and treatments for patients,” said Torres, who is also a patient advocate for cancer and the former state senator representing East L.A. “We are grateful that Mayor Garcetti and his staff responded to our request to have L.A. host its first ISSCR.”

UCI’s Peter Donovan underscored how the conference also benefits L.A.’s growing biotechnology industry, which continues to translate scientific discoveries into new therapies and cures for patients.

“The attention brought to the city by this conference should send a strong message to the biotech community that L.A. and So Cal is the place for regenerative medicine and that, in addition to helping patients and their families, the work being carried out here can be an economic powerhouse for the city and region,” said Donovan, professor and director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI.

More than 5,000 students graduate in biotechnology-related fields in L.A. County each year, and many local scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians share a vision of creating job opportunities for these professionals by building a biotechnology park adjacent to USC’s Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights.

“California has become the world leader in stem cell research, with some of the most promising research being conducted in Los Angeles,” said Eli Broad, who with his wife Edythe has funded three stem cell centers that bear their names at USC, UCLA and the University of California, San Francisco. “Edye and I look forward to the increased knowledge and scientific collaborations that will come out of the 2019 International Society for Stem Cell Research.”

By Cristy Lytal