Stem cell summit brings top minds in regenerative medicine to Vail
VAIL — Dr. Johnny Huard arrived at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute in 2015, and since then, the clinic’s annual Scientific Summit has become a showcase of what’s possible in the field of stem cell research.
Huard is the chief scientific officer at the institute and started the event by getting 30 physicians, scientists, surgeons and researchers together in 2015 to discuss the latest advancements in their field.
By 2016, the event had 46 specialists attend, and the discussions included late-breaking technology such as turning stem cells into a vaccine for rheumatoid arthritis, something that didn’t begin to receive much attention in the media until only a few months ago.
From Aug. 23 to 26, more than 60 of the top physicians, scientists, surgeons and researchers in the field of regenerative medicine spoke and presented at the summit in Vail.
“We are very excited to see the response to our event and the growth in numbers of both those presenting and those attending our Vail Scientific Summit,” Huard said.
Dr. Marc Philippon agreed.
“The panel of presenters reads like a ‘who’s who’ in the fields of aging, orthopedic surgery and regenerative medicine,” said Philippon, co-chairman of the Steadman Philippon Research Institute and managing partner of The Steadman Clinic. “We started this Summit upon Dr. Huard’s arrival in 2015 and cannot be happier with the way the event has expanded and developed over the last three years.”
The orthopedic surgery and biologic sessions were led by a variety of top doctors from around the country and also featured many of The Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s own surgeons and researchers, including Philippon, Dr. Matthew Provencher, Dr. Peter Millett, Dr. Donald Corenman, Dr. David Karli, Dr. Robert LaPrade, Dr. Joel Matta, Dr. Raymond Kim, Dr. Tom Hackett, Dr. Thos Evans and Dr. Scott Tashman.
The five keynote speakers at the four-day event each focused on a different area of medicine and science.
James L. Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, kicked off the Summit by discussing senolytics, chronic disease and aging. Senolytics is the effort to rid the body of cells that are no longer able to divide like a normal cell, which is usually associated with aging.
Dr. Holger Eltzschig, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, McGovern Medical School in Houston examined the concept that hypoxia can induce inflammation.
Paul D. Robbins, Ph.D., a professor of molecular medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, and director of the The Scripps Research Institute Center on Aging gave a presentation titled “Clinically Relevant Approaches to Extend Health Span” and Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair contributed a presentation titled “The Future of Academic Medicine.”
Dr. Gang Bao, Ph.D., the Foyt Family Chair Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas, is also the director of the Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines at Rice and gave a presentation titled “Engineering Multifunctional Nanoparticles for Disease Treatment.”
The Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute CEO Dan Drawbaugh said every day, the clinic’s physicians provide patient care and perform groundbreaking research related to the topics explored at the summit.
“We are excited to share how these outstanding efforts and studies fit together,” Drawbaugh said.
Huard said among his favorite parts of the conference are the conversations that follow the event.
“We’re doing a lot of research that’s going to be applicable in 10 to 15 years,” Huard said. “I have projects that are closer to the clinic, and I have projects that are far from the clinic, and both of them are important.”
Using ACL reconstruction as an example, Huard said average visitors to Vail might be undergoing stem cell treatments in the future that are developed right here in the Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s labs.
“You fall skiing, you come here, your joint is swollen,” Huard said. “They’re going to look at you and say you need an ACL reconstruction. I want to take stem cells from you when you come, and while your swelling is going down, I’m growing your tendon or your graft with your own stem cells. And when you come back, I’m going to have a graft with your name on it. But that’s not today, that’s 10 years from now.”
Huard says his ACL example is one of 25 or 30 being examined in Vail at any given time.
“A lot of people think that science is a fishing expedition, because you go fishing, if you fish for a while in that creek and you don’t get any fish, you’re going to change and go somewhere else. So I have a lot of research and development in the lab,” he said.
The breakthroughs have come, but constantly at odds with the process are those two nagging problems scientists must face along with everyone else: time and money.
“We’re building upon this, sometimes we’ll get a grant funded, and sometimes we’re moving up the chain,” he said. “But sometimes, with older projects, they go down the tube.”