Jim Vaught, ISBER President 2015-2016
I’m very excited to be ISBER’s president for 2015-16! In my first President’s Message I especially want to thank all of you who attended the annual meeting in Phoenix, which was a record setter in terms of attendance, with over 770 registered delegates, and a sold out exhibit hall.
For those of you who are more recent members, you may not know that I was ISBER’s second president, in 2001-02. So I want to take this opportunity to provide a little historical perspective as we continue to celebrate the outstanding success of the meeting in Phoenix. ISBER was the brainchild of our first president Elaine Gunter, and was organized in 1999 through a series of meetings at the American Type Culture Collection headquarters in Virginia, and at McKesson Bioservices and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), both in Maryland. The founding members were from a variety of government, commercial and academic biobanking organizations. Our first meeting was co-sponsored by the NCI and was held in Rockville Maryland in 2000. The first meeting, as well as the second in Atlanta, third in the Boston area, and most of the earlier meetings each attracted over 200 attendees, which we considered to be large numbers at the time.
In 2001 when I became president, ISBER had 45 individual and organizational members. As announced at the business meeting in Phoenix in May, we now have over 1000 members across 38 countries.
During my presentation at the business meeting, I noted some other things which had changed in the 14 years since my first term as president:
- We could bring bottles of wine onboard airplanes; in my example, a backpack full of bottles of Italian wine on a flight from Paris to Washington!
- Good personal GPS devices and smart phones were still a few years away. We still gave written or verbal driving directions to locations.
- Television images were not yet high definition. Watching a tennis match or hockey game required a bit of imagination as the balls or pucks were difficult to see clearly.
- Remember CD players, the Sony Walkman?
- We discussed issues using more than 140 characters (tweeting was sound made by birds).
As we think about how ISBER has changed since its inception in 1999, we are anticipating even more significant and faster changes in the coming years. I’m excited to be back in the leadership of the organization as we implement a number of new initiatives. The most important initiative that I’ll be working on, along with others on the Board of Directors, as well as the committee chairs and working group chairs, is the implementation of the ISBER Regions plan. We were pleased in Phoenix to introduce the new Director-at-Large from China, Dr. Xiaomin Wang. We expect over the coming years to continue to organize and expand our presence in ISBER’s other regions (China is its own region): Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA); Indo-Pacific Rim; and the Americas. We’ll be organizing annual and regional meetings in these areas in the coming years. ISBER’s next annual meeting will be in April 2016 in Berlin. And in general we are looking for opportunities for members to represent ISBER at various international conferences, such as the BBMRI Hands on Biobanking meeting in Milan in July.
During the coming year and beyond, we’ll be engaged in or planning other major new initiatives:
- A new ISBER Best Practices 2-day training curriculum is under development and will be completed during the summer. The location of first training session is to be determined, but we believe this will be one excellent way to introduce ISBER at various conferences as we develop the Regions plan.
- A new edition of ISBER Best Practices is in the planning stages, with a tentative publication date of late 2016.
- As the Editor-in-Chief of ISBER’s official journal, Biopreservation & Biobanking, I look forward to publishing more special sections and issues based on ISBER meeting topics, such as the recent Biobanking in China issue and the Biobank Sustainability special section.
- ISO is developing a new biobanking standard, TC 276. ISBER is represented on the standards development working group. At present, there is no consensus on the type of standards that need to be developed. ISBER membership will be updated on progress at our annual business meetings.
- One serious deficit in our membership and annual meeting attendance is the lack of pharma representation. Thanks to Dominic Allen and Joe Kessler for revitalizing the Pharma Working Group. We look forward to increased activity in recruiting new members from pharma, and involving this important segment of the biobanking community in our meeting program plans.
I expect that other exciting strategic initiatives will be announced during the coming year. And experience tells me that unexpected challenges and opportunities will arise. In any event, I look forward to working with the ISBER leadership and members to build on our success. Feel free to contact me with your comments, questions and ideas. I look forward to serving as your president this coming year!