Scholars' Association News
Issue 36
November 2015


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Onassis Lecture Series at FORTH: Stem cells and their modern applications in treating serious illnesses

The Onassis Lecture Series 2015 hosted in Heraklion Crete from 6 to 10 July 2015 in partnership between the Onassis Foundation and the Foundation for Research and Technology (FORTH) focused on the highly promising research field of stem cells. The keynote speaker was British Nobelist Sir John Bertrand Gurdon.

The Onassis Foundation Science Lecture Series, highly acclaimed in the scientific world, was held for the 15th consecutive year and this year was dedicated to Biology, attracting a host of distinguished speakers. This year’s lecture series focused on the key properties and potential of stem cells from various organisms. Cutting-edge stem cell applications for tissue regeneration intended to treat serious human illnesses were presented.

The keynote speaker, Sir John Bertrand Gurdon, received a Nobel Prize for Physiology – Medicine in 2012 (together with Shinya Yamanaka) for his research work into stem cells, and in particular into reprogramming adult differentiated cells so that they returned to the embryonic stage. This so-called “induced pluripotency” technology holds out immense promise for creating differentiated cells and tissue for transplants (a field known as Regenerative Medicine) and creating ‘Petri dish models’ for human illnesses in order to test out new medicines.

Sir John Bertrand Gurdon was born in England in 1933. He studied zoology at the University of Oxford, where he did his PhD in Embryology. He has worked as a researcher at various institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and the Carnegie Institute and since 1983 has been a professor at the University of Cambridge. Today he is Professor Emeritus at the University of Cambridge and continues his research at the Wellcome Trust / Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute (which was named after him).

Other equally distinguished speakers included:

– Xin Chen, Asst. Professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

– Androniki Kretsovali, Director of Applications at FORTH’s Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

– Christine L. Mummery, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Anatomy and Embryology at the University of Leiden.

– Malin Parmar, Asst. Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Lund.

– Henrik Semb, Professor at the University of Copenhagen, and Director of the Stem Cell Biology Centre.

– Susan Strome, Professor of Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

– Azim Surani, Professor and research director at the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge.

– Stavros Taraviras, Asst. Professor at the School of Medicine of the University of Patra.

– Andreas Androutselis-Theotokos, head of the University of Dresden research team.

With financial support from the Onassis Foundation, the Onassis 2015 Lecture Series was attended by 38 Greek and 16 foreign students chosen based on outstanding academic performance. Like every year, students from universities on Crete, and Greek and foreign researchers were given the opportunity to attend (based on the same criteria but without financial support).

The Onassis Foundation seminar lectures, which have been organised annually since 2001 in Heraklion, Crete, cover subjects at the forefront of current research and have been established as the most advanced such institution worldwide. President of the organizing committee is Giannis Papamastorakis, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Research and Technology.

Each lecture series lasts one week and addresses students, PhD candidates, post-graduate and graduate students of high academic performance from Greece and the rest of the world. Everyone allowed to attend has excellent opportunities for talking to, getting to know and obtaining information from the world’s top scientists. This allows them to plan their scientific career in the best possible way. The Onassis Foundation covers travel and accommodation expenses in Heraklion, Crete, for all speakers and admitted students.

The lectures are streamed live over the internet.

Further information at the Onassis Foundation Science Lecture Series Homepage

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