Prof. Eli Arama, conference organizer: "This was a good opportunity to show that science is above conflict and academic boycotts."
(l-r) Prof. Richard A. Lockshin, St. John's University; Prof. David Wallach, Weizmann Institute of Science; Dr. Zahra Zakeri, ICDS President, City University of New York; and Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Eli Arama, member of the ICDS Board of Directors and chairperson of the IsSDB
The first day of the three-day meeting was held in conjunction with the Israeli Society for Developmental Biology (IsSDB), which was attended by world-class scientists from countries including the USA, Germany, Canada, Israel, Italy, South Africa, Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, Turkey, Spain, Japan, Singapore and France.
All multicellular organisms carry a cell suicide program – programmed cell death (PCD). PCD serves many important functions in the development and maintenance of plants, animals and humans, including the differentiation of body structures, such as fingers and toes, deleting superfluous cells, and eliminating abnormal, harmful, misplaced or nonfunctional cells. The malfunctioning of PCD can lead to various diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases or neurodegenerative disorders.
The conference organizing committee included ICDS President Dr. Zahra Zakeri of City University of New York; Prof. Richard A. Lockshin of St. John’s University; and the Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Eli Arama, a member of the ICDS Board of Directors and the chairperson of IsSDB. The goal of the conference was two-pronged: First, to draw the attention of developmental biologists interested in cell death as part of their research to the current challenges in the cell death field; and second, to bring to the discussion out-of-the-box concepts and nontraditional thinking.
During the event, three awards were presented to scientists in recognition of their contribution to the fields. One was the 2017 IsSDB Career Award – a newly established award for recognizing Israeli scientists who made significant contributions to the field of developmental biology, and to the development of the field in Israel – to Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Ben-Zion Shilo. Shilo is described by members of the award advisory committee as “the leading developmental biologist in Israel, who established the foundation for modern developmental biology in Israel working in the field of segmentation, pattern formation, differentiation and signaling during Drosophila development.”
Prof. David Wallach of the Weizmann Institute and Prof. Barbara Conradt, Vice President of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University München, Germany, were honored with the ICDS Outstanding Achievement Award for their contribution to the cell death field. Wallach is most noted for deciphering the so-called “extrinsic cell-death pathway” – one of the major mechanisms by which programmed cell death is induced. In addition to pioneering the the isolation of the cytokine TNF (tumor necrosis factor), he was among the first to isolate the TNF receptors; and he identified the “death domain” – a region in death-inducing members of the TNF receptor family that, upon self-association, triggers cell death. Wallach also discovered caspase-8 – an enzyme in the cell-death pathway; and he clarified both the cell-death and non-deadly functions of this enzyme.
Conradt has made several seminal discoveries, including the characterization of the first identified BH3-only protein – key activators of PCD – in C. elegans, as well as the more recent discovery that BCL2 family proteins, which are known for their roles in cell death, also have important functions in the regulation of mitochondrial dynamics.
Arama: “The cell death and developmental biology fields in Israel have produced a number of prominent figures. The ICDS and IsSDB felt this was a good opportunity to bring international leaders in the field to network and mingle with Israeli scientists and students; to have discussions and appreciate one another; to show that science is above conflict and academic boycotts. The conference incorporated various tours of Israel, and many said that they feel ‘enlightened’ after having visited Israel. I hope that the event, and future events, will be memorable both in scientific terms and for the unique experience.”
Also assisting in the organization of the conference were Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Keren Yacobi-Sharon and Reut Hershenhoren.
Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.