Four years ago, the regenerative medicine research community based in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia gathered in Victoria, B.C. for the first annual Cascadia Corridor Research Symposium. The goal was to create stronger ties within this cross-border research community and foster new collaborations to drive the field forward in its pursuit of new treatments for diseases impacting people all around the world.
ISCRM faculty member Tom Reh, PhD recalls an impromptu brainstorm session with UBC Professor Fabio Rossi, MD, PhD at a Till and McCulloch meeting, a global gathering of stem cell scientists, held each year in Canada. It was over coffee that the idea for a regional symposium gained steam.
“Our vision was an annual meeting of stem cell researchers and people interested in regeneration from these two great universities and other institutions,” says Reh. “It’s fantastic to see how the event has grown over the years and to know that we’ll be convening in Seattle.”
The full agenda and registration information for the 2022 Cascadia Corridor Research Symposium are available here.
Reh counts ISCRM faculty members Jessica Young, PhD and Andrea Wills, PhD among the early movers of the symposium and notes that other participating institutions including Fred Hutch Cancer Center, University of Victoria, and Seattle Children’s, helped bring the event to life.
After shifting to a virtual gathering in 2020 and 2021, the conference, hosted by ISCRM and BCRegMed, is set to resume in-person this year, marking the first time the event will be held in Seattle.
The symposium will take place November 3-4 on the UW Medicine South Lake Union campus and will feature keynote addresses from ISCRM Associate Director Jen Davis, PhD and David Granville, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia.
ISCRM faculty member Jessica Young, PhD is a member of the organizing committee. “We are thrilled to host the Cascadia Regenerative Medicine Symposium and welcome our colleagues from British Columbia,” says Young. “Some of the most exciting regenerative medicine research is world is taking place here in the Cascadia corridor. The symposium is a perfect opportunity to bring our research community together and explore opportunities to collaborate as we address the root causes of the most urgent challenges in medicine and health care.”
While the symposium has only happened in-person once, it has already helped to seed collaborations between ISCRM and BCRegMed that are advancing research on both sides of the border.
Fabio Rossi, MD, PhD, is a Professor in the University of British Columbia School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Medical Genetics. Dr. Rossi recalls recognizing hearing ISCRM faculty member David Mack, PhD present his research on differentiating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) into skeletal muscle tissue – a topic that interested Dr. Rossi, whose own lab studies muscle development.
“I was impressed with the results David was getting and I knew that we needed someone who could tutor us,” says Dr. Rossi. “What happened was a win-win situation that embodies the whole point of the symposium.”
The Rossi Lab studies cells known as fibroadipogenic progenitors (FAPs), which play an important role in tissue development. At the time, Mack and his team were eager to better understand how FAPs contribute to skeletal muscle differentiation, remodeling, and regeneration.
The symbiosis blossomed when Mark Hamer, a PhD student in the Rossi Lab, traveled to Seattle for a week-long residency. During his time at UW, Hamer learned skeletal muscle differentiations from Christian Mandrycky, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Mack and Regnier labs, while teaching Mandrycky how to isolate and characterize FAPs for future experiments.
“We know that FAPs are crucial for regeneration,” says Mack. “Understanding how muscle progenitors and FAPs talk to each other during embryonic myogenesis would be a huge step forward. We’re betting that the breakdown of this interaction contributes to certain muscle diseases. Now we’ll get to explore these questions with the experts in the field.”
While the collaboration is still in a nascent stage, Rossi says their efforts to apply what Hamer learned about skeletal differentiation are promising. “We use tools like stem cells to ask basic science questions. Becoming more efficient at making muscle cells allows us to scale up and to model more sophisticated control circuitry in the cells.”
Mark Hamer is not the only researcher with UBC connections to travel from Vancouver to Seattle.
Jeremy Lotto was a PhD student in cell and developmental biology, and a researcher in the lab of Dr. Pamela Hoodless at BC Cancer, when he attended the inaugural Cascadia Regenerative Medicine Symposium – held in 2019 in Victoria. At the time, Dr. Hoodless had been in touch with ISCRM faculty member Kelly Stevens, PhD, about potential collaborations between their labs.
There was a natural crossover. In the Hoodless Lab, Lotto had been using high-throughput genomics technology to study the earliest stages of liver development. The Stevens Lab, meanwhile, uses human biology as inspiration in their effort to engineer artificial tissues to someday help patient with heart and liver disease. After earning his PhD this year, Dr. Lotto brought his expertise in developmental biology to South Lake Union, home to ISCRM’s research labs.
“Joining Kelly’s lab is a way to apply my background in liver biology and genomics into more translational research,” says Lotto, who began his postdoc in the Stevens Lab in August and is now learning the ins and outs of tissue and organoid culturing and supporting the team’s research on hepatocytes in mouse models.
The 2022 Symposium – Cascadia 4.0 – begins at noon on November 4th with welcome addresses from Dr. Young and from Fabio Rossi, PhD, from the University of British Columbia. Planned session topics include Basic Mechanisms of Stem Cells and Regeneration, Technical Innovation in Regenerative Medicine, and Clinical Applications and Disease Modeling with Stem Cells. Other events include a Biotech Showcase and a Rising Star poster session.
The full agenda and registration information are available here.