The 8th Annual Surgical Conference in Pakistan aimed to promote collaboration between clinical specialties and basic science by convening experts from academia, research labs, and healthcare organizations worldwide. The conference focused on the latest developments, challenges, and opportunities in the field of stem cell research and its implications for surgery, with the aim of fostering innovative solutions for fatal diseases, such as heart diseases, strokes, burns, various cancers, diabetes and more. These are increasingly burdening the healthcare system and economy of Pakistan, and the overall quality of life of Pakistanis.
The chief guest, Prof Atta-ur-Rehman who is a UNESCO Science Laureate and Professor Emeritus, International Centre for Chemical & Biological Sciences, University of Karachi, said: “Sharing ideas is the first step towards innovation, and this conference is an unprecedented move towards encouraging discussions about the challenges associated with the field of stem cell science." Prof Rehman has previously served as Pakistan's Federal Minister of Education and Science and Technology.
50 experts from around the world participated in the discourse, with keynote addresses by Helena Pereira De Melo from Nova School of Law Lisbon, Portugal, Catherine Prescott from Cambridge Network, UK, and Marita Eisemann-Klein from Germany, to name a few.
Distinguished guest speakers, most of whom were invited from outside of Pakistan, delivered talks at the conference. Professor Arnold Richard Kriegstein, from the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California and San Francisco (UCSF), commended the Aga Khan University for its pioneering efforts in initiating stem cell research in Pakistan and expressed pride in collaborating with the University to establish the stem cell center at AKU.
Professor Ather Enam, the Scientific Director of AKU's Juma Research Laboratory emphasized the significance of the conference stating that it was a one-of-a-kind event in the University's history that centered around the theme of bringing stem cell research from bench to bedside and into clinical trials. It was a unique opportunity for field experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders to collaborate and build momentum towards this goal.
Professor Saleem Islam, the Chair of Surgery at AKU, stressed the importance of conducting basic science research in the region, despite the difficulties that come with it. Dr. Islam asserted that the reason AKU and Pakistan pursue this type of research is precisely because it presents a formidable challenge and that they must persevere in their commitment to undertaking challenging work.
In addition to the main conference, a series of pre-conference workshops were conducted to provide researchers with hands-on training and capacity building in stem cell science and biotechnology. The event also provided a platform for young researchers to showcase their work through oral and poster presentations and engage with their peers from around the world, thus fostering the exchange of scientific knowledge and building translational bridges. The conference proceedings are now available as a special supplement in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association.
The conference was chaired by Dr Fazlur Rahman, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Aga Khan University, Karachi.