Senior Editor, PhD
As we approach year-end, I imagine that you, like me, are seeing emails asking you to renew your membership for various societies. Societies that you joined, or perhaps gained membership when you registered to attend their annual meeting. Are you going to renew all, some, or none of these memberships? And what influences the decision? It will be different for each of us as we all have varying needs and past experiences that influence our choices.
ISCT membership runs on the calendar year, and I have received a couple of reminders to renew my membership. Will I do It? Of course, I will! ISCT is my favourite society for many reasons. I have been a member since 2001 when I attended my first Annual meeting – the 7th Annual meeting of ISHAGE in Quebec City. 2001 was the year the society changed its name from International Society for Haematotherapy and Graft Engineering to International Society for Cellular Therapy and adopted the ISCT brand. From that first meeting, I felt that I belonged. The science, the clinical application, the alignment with industry and the emphasis on regulatory considerations all played a part, but more than anything the people. The other members' dedication and enthusiasm was inspiring. ISCT has grown and evolved over the years, and for me, it is the foundation of my role and journey in the cell and gene therapy industry.
In 2022, ISCT has a record-breaking 2800 total members from around the globe, an increase of 23% over 2021. Our regional membership is 58% North America, 17% Europe, 8% Asia, 10% ANZ and 7% South and Central America with members in 61 countries. The ISCT membership model encourages individuals and organizations to participate. Both laboratory and industry community memberships have nearly doubled over 2021. I am particularly excited that Early Stage Professionals (ESP) make up 27% of our membership. The future of ISCT will be in great hands with so many dedicated new members of our community.
As many of you know, I am located in Australia. My dilemma is, how do I balance supporting small local societies that offer limited local benefits, against supporting a global organization like ISCT, which offers so much? On the flipside, the local organizations are very focused on catering to specific groups like academic stem cell researchers, immunologists, the biotechnology industry or clinical research and trials. Each Society or Association is important in its’ own right, and many are entirely volunteer-run. However, as the field of cell and gene therapy is growing, the boundaries of expertise are blurring. Over the past few years, joint meetings have been held to share the load of arranging and holding a scientific meeting and allowing the members to learn more about related fields. ISCT offers this within one organization! And not just in Australia but with the other side of the world and across timezones. We can participate in educational activities such as the Annual meeting, in exciting locations like Paris in 2023, regional meetings organized by the regional teams with support from our Head Office team, or webinars coordinated and hosted by various scientific, regulatory or industry committees. There is always something to look forward to, and even when the original presentation is in the middle of the night, it is easy to register and catch up later at a more social time. Webinars are a great way to upskill whole teams, watching as a group and discussing the implications of the presentations.
ISCT membership now offers additional educational and training opportunities in partnership with like-minded organizations. The biennial ISCT-ASTCT Cell Therapy Training Course aims to address the need for comprehensive cell therapy training, covering the process of translational research to cell manufacturing and clinical trials in cellular therapy, including regulatory components. The Andalusian Network for the Design & Translation of Advanced Therapies (ANd&tAT) online Educational Program on Advanced Therapy Manufacturing is available free-of-charge to ISCT members, and in association with The National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT), ISCT is offering the Workforce Development in Biomanufacturing online course. In-person opportunities to experience biomanufacturing first hand are coming in 2023.
What motivates me to make the payment when I receive a membership renewal notice? I pay personally, not through my employer. The renewal/benefit consideration is a personal one, but the benefits must be broader than what I gain. The global reach of ISCT is multifaceted. Just take a moment to search #fromtheeditors on The Telegraft Hub. Telegraft is edited by a global editorial board, with each editor soliciting content, discussing how to keep Telegraft a valuable member newsletter, and carefully editing the submitted content to be uploaded on the web and shared with the entire ISCT community. Look out for posts on The Telegraft Community Hub and join in the conversation. Make the most of your membership!