As we reflect on a very successful 2019 annual meeting, it seems most appropriate to recognize and thank some of the pivotal members of the program planning committee for their leadership in preparing such an excellent program. While many people contributed to this success, I would like to focus on the leadership team; Fredy Altpeter (program chair), Pierluigi Barone (PBS, program chair), Mae Ciancio (IVACS program chair), Raj Deepika Chauhan (PBS Sr. co-chair), Angela Labrum (PBS Jr. co-chair), Albert Kausch (Education Chair), Adrianne Brown (PBS Student co-chair), Sepideh Mohammadhossinpour (IVACS Student co-chair) and Marietta Wheaton Saunders (Meeting Secretariat). With their respective session conveners and local organizing committee, they developed an outstanding overall program with excellent science and ample opportunity for social interaction among the attendees. Our keynote speaker, Professor June Medford (Colorado State University) was a special treat. One measure of success was the number of people who remained to attend the Wednesday sessions and participate in the off-site tours. We also especially thank Marietta Saunders, Michele Schultz, and their New Beginnings Management team for preparing the venue and assuring that the meeting ran so smoothly.

Our 2020 World Congress will be held in San Diego, CA (June 6 – 10 2020). The program is rapidly taking shape under the program committee headed by Michael Dame (program chair) with Raj Deepika Chauhan (PBS program chair), Mae Ciancio (IVACS program chair), Brett Hale (PBS Student co-chair), Cristofer Calvo (IVACS Student co-chair), Albert Kausch (Education Chair), Savannah St. Clair (Local Organizing Committee Co-Chair) and Marietta Wheaton Saunders (Meeting Secretariat). This will be a World Congress as we will be meeting jointly with the Japanese Association for Animal Cell Culture and the Japanese Tissue Culture Association. San Diego is a major academic and industrial center for plant and animal cell research and this meeting promises to have a rich and diverse scientific program. We are exceptionally pleased to have Professor Alysson Moutri as our keynote speaker. His laboratory uses stem cells, molecular tools and sophisticated 3D culture models to investigate fundamental mechanisms of brain development and mental disorders.

In thinking about our scientific program, one of the strengths of the SIVB has been its ability to address diverse interests within and across biological kingdoms. This breath of focus is unique in scientific societies and especially their annual meetings. The creation of the plenary symposia, going back at least 15 years, is now an integral part of our meeting program and reflects our commitment to provide “cutting edge” science as well as exposure to topics across the spectrum of membership interests. The plenary sessions were designed to be a unifying part of the program. They draw conveners from both sections for each day’s program precisely to reinforce the need to address the diversity both within and among the sections. The conveners have a difficult charge because preparing the plenary sessions requires stepping outside one’s area of specific focus to find speakers that will work to cover the broader aspects of the topic. On behalf of the society as a whole, I thank each of you for the effort that you will expend to accomplish this goal. For me, they provide an opportunity to see a broad range of topics that I do not necessarily think about in my normal focus on toxicology. There is great pleasure in watching the beauty of the science.

One of our important roles as a scientific society is to bring our collective expertise to bear on questions of science in public policy. As a not-for-profit (tax exempt) society, we are prohibited from formally lobbying, it is quite legitimate and in fact essential to address comments to proposed regulations (and other actions) when public comment is solicited. Wayne Parrott, public policy chair, has been very proactive in drawing on the considerable expertise within the SIVB to address proposed regulations. Most recently, he has organized formal comments on the USDA proposed new “SECURE Biotechnology Regulations to Protect Plant health and Promote Agricultural Innovation”. SECURE is Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient. The stated goal of the regulations from the USDA is “modernize the Departments biotechnology regulations with a balanced approach that continues to protect plant health while allowing agricultural innovation to thrive”. Why is public comment from the SIVB important? First, the comments go into the public record to support the points with which we agree and thus gives credence to any suggested changes we might propose. Second, they encourage other scientific organizations to participate in the process. Third, they work to counterbalance the often massive campaigns from individuals or groups that respond to proposed changes on purely emotional grounds. All too often, the purely emotional comments become the preponderance of the responses. Wayne shared this example of one such comment:

“I and my friends are TOTALLY OPPOSED TO GENETIC MODIFICATION OF ALL PLANTS AND ANIMALS. THEY CAUSE ALL SORTS OF SIDE EFFECTS EVEN TO THE POINT OF FATALITY. THEY CAUSE THE DESTRUCTION OF NATURAL HABITATS AND THE EXTINCTION OF VARIOUS ANIMALS SUCH AS AMPHIBIANS.

GMO CROPS AND ANIMALS SHOULD NEVER, EVER HAVE BEEN CREATED! I AND MY FRIENDS DESIRE MORE, MORE, MORE REGULATIONS ON THESE FRANKEN CREATIONS–NOT LESS.”

No matter how strictly emotional the comments from individuals or pressure groups might be, they do have an impact when they come in large numbers. Our input can have a strong counter balancing effect with our strong, detailed focus on the science. We thank Wayne and collaborators for their excellent work.

I look forward to seeing everyone in San Diego.

Sincerely yours,

John W. Harbell, Ph.D.
President, SIVB