SSR 2017 Featured Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Azim Surani, Ph.D., CBE, FRS, FMedSci

Position/Education: Dr. Surani is Director of Germline & Epigenomics Research, The Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, UK.

Research: Dr. Surani focuses his research on the mammalian germ cell lineage: how it is established and how it is programmed toward generating the totipotent state. He investigates the pluripotent state and its establishment during early development, as well as the mechanisms that regulate initiation of cell-fate decisions.

Special Symposium Speakers

Tracy L. Bale, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Dr. Bale is professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Washington.

Research: Dr. Bale’s research interests include developing mouse models of stress sensitivity using genetic and prenatal manipulations to understand the mechanism and heritability for increased susceptibility to neurodevelopmental disorders, determining the molecular mechanisms by which stress factors influence appetite and reward, and examine the effects of maternal stress-sensitivity on fetal development and long-term physiological and behavioral responses

Kwang-Yul Cha, M.D.

Position/Education: Dr. Kwang Yul Cha is one of the founders and the President of Asia’s first and most notably recognized society for fertility—Pacific Society for Reproductive Medicine. He is the Founder and President of CHA Health Systems (CHS), a global healthcare enterprise in Korea which owns and operates, among others: Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the largest privately owned hospital in Los Angeles, California; 12 hospitals throughout Korea; CHAUM, a revolutionary anti-aging life center; Tokyo Cell Clinic (TCC) in Japan, which specializes in immunocyte treatment; Pangyo CHA Bio Complex, world-class bio R&D center; and fertility treatment and research centers in the U.S. and Korea encompassing over 15,000 IVF cycles per year, including the CHA Fertility Center, Seoul Station, the largest fertility clinic in Asia. In addition, Dr. Cha owns two KOSDAQ-listed companies including CHA Biotech, one of the largest biotech, stem-cell companies in Korea; bio- venture and healthcare investment companies; the Sung Kwang Medical Foundation; and CHA University and School of Medicine.

He earned his M.D. at Yonsei University, School of Medicine, graduating summa cum laude. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and Visiting Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University.

Research: Dr. Cha is the author of numerous books, medical reviews and over 200 articles and papers published in medical journals. He has received more than 10 Prize Paper Awards conferred by major international societies for his authorship of selected journal articles and papers and delivered more than 200 special lectures at medical conferences and symposiums.

Barbara Hales, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Dr. Hales received her M.Sc. in Pharmacognosy from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and Ph.D. in Pharmacology from McGill University. She joined the faculty in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at McGill University where she is currently a James McGill Professor.

Research: Her overall research goal is to understand how preconceptional or in utero chemical exposures adversely affect reproduction and development. Her current research, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), encompasses teratogen-induced signaling pathways, consequences of preconception paternal exposure to drugs on germ cell quality and progeny outcome, and the effects of known endocrine disruptors and their proposed replacements on the reproductive system and progeny outcome. Dr. Hales has published over 150 research articles and 40 book chapters in toxicology, birth defects research, and reproduction. She is coeditor of both editions of the Teratology Primer. She served as president of the Teratology Society and of the Society of Toxicology of Canada. She is a member of the US National Academies Committee on Endocrine-Related Low Dose Toxicity and co-chair of the Chemicals Management Plan Science Committee of Canada. She is currently serving as secretary general of the Executive Committee of the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX).

Mark Hanson, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Professor Hanson is the founding Director of the Institute of Developmental Sciences at the University of Southampton and British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Science.  He is currently President of the International Development Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) Society. He was a founding director of a hospital research lab-based educational programme for adolescents, LifeLab, in Southampton and is also much involved in the wider public understanding of science through public lectures and popular science books. Dr. Hanson received his M.A. and DPhil from the University of Oxford and his PGCE from the University of Leeds. 

Research: Dr. Hanson’s research concerns several aspects of development and health, ranging from how the environment during development (before and after birth) can affect the later risk of chronic noncommunicable diseases to population studies aimed at the early identification of risk so that timely preventative interventions can be made. He is particularly interested in the epigenetic processes that underlie such risks, and which may serve as valuable early life biomarkers.    

Clifford Librach, M.D., FRCS(C), FACOG(REI)

Position/Education: Dr. Librach is the founder and Director of the CReATe Fertility Centre and CReATe Cord Blood Bank (Toronto, Ontario). He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Toronto, and holds cross-appointments with the Department of Physiology and Institute of Medical Sciences. He received his M.D. from the University of Toronto.

Research: Dr. Librach’s research focuses on using stem cells from umbilical cord tissue for the treatment of spinal cord injury, heart attack, liver disease and study of aberrant gamete (reproductive cell) development, conducting clinical studies on methods such as assisted reproduction to improve treatment of female infertility, and developing testing to predict preeclampsia.

Dr. Rod T. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Dr. Mitchell is a Wellcome Trust-funded Research Group Leader within the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh and also a Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist at The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

Research: His research interests focus on the role of the germ-stem-cell niche on germ cell development in the immature testis. This includes investigating the effect of exposure to pharmaceuticals (e.g. analgesics, chemotherapeutics) during fetal and prepubertal life using human-model systems. He has a major clinical and research interest in fertility preservation for prepubertal boys with cancer with a focus on developing strategies for removing and storing testis tissue from patients prior to potentially sterilizing treatments so that subsequent germ cell development can be achieved using in vitro or in vivo techniques. The center recently became the first in the UK to develop a fertility preservation program to store testicular tissue from young boys with cancer prior to their treatment. This work in males, combined with the well-established fertility preservation program for females, has resulted in a collaboration of scientists and clinicians working as part of the Edinburgh Fertility Preservation program, which Mitchell leads, for male fertility preservation. This unique collaboration combines clinical and laboratory research aimed at optimizing fertility for children and young adults with cancer. The center is also a full partner in the EU-funded FP7 Marie Curie ITN entitled “GROWSPERM” aimed at coordinating research into male fertility preservation for boys with cancer, and MRC also receives funding for male fertility preservation work from Children with Cancer UK.

Vivian W. Pinn, M.D.

Position/Education: Dr. Pinn is Senior Scientist Emerita, National Institutes of Health (NIH). She was founding Director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health and also Associate Director for research on women’s health at NIH, positions she held from 1991 until her retirement in 2011. She came to the NIH from Howard University College of Medicine, where she had been professor and chair of the Department of Pathology since 1982, and had previously held teaching appointments at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University. A graduate of Wellesley College, she earned her M.D. from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, being the only woman or minority in her class. She undertook postgraduate training in pathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Achievements: Dr. Pinn has received numerous honors and recognitions, and has presented her perceptions of women’s health and sex/gender research, minority and women’s health and health disparities, as well as challenges in biomedical careers, to audiences both nationally and internationally. Her implementation of the congressional mandate to include women and minorities in clinical research funded by the NIH is evidence of an effort she continues to champion. She has long been a vocal advocate for women and minorities in biomedical science careers. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine (IoM)) in 1995. Dr. Pinn has received fourteen honorary degrees of science, law, and medicine. The University of Virginia School of Medicine has named one of its four advisory medical student colleges “The Pinn College” in her honor; in the fall of 2017, UVA will dedicate its medical education building as “Pinn Hall.” She has held leadership positions in many professional organizations, including that as president of the National Medical Association. Dr. Pinn currently serves on the Board of Trustees/Advisors of Thomas Jefferson University and Tufts University School of Medicine, and is a member of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine of the National Academies. Lectures in women’s health and/or health disparities named for her have been established at the NIH, the Women’s Health Congress, and the National Medical Association. In December 2016, the UVA medical school announced the inaugural Pinn Scholars program to support and recognize mid-level faculty in efforts to take their research in novel directions. Her oral history is included in the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit on women physicians: “Changing the Face of Medicine,” in UVA’s project, “Explorations in Black Leadership,” conducted by Julian Bond, and in the HistoryMakers collection which is now housed in the Library of Congress. 

Renee A. Reijo Pera, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Renee Reijo Pera is Vice President of Research and Economic Development at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. She came to MSU from Stanford University, where she was the Director for the Center for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Education and the Center for Reproductive and Stem Cell Biology, as well as head of the doctoral program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. She received her Ph.D. from the Whitehead Institute for BioMedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Research: Dr. Reijo Pera’s work in imaging algorithms was recognized by Time magazine as one of the top 10 biomedical breakthroughs of 2010, and she was named one of 20 Influential Women in America by Newsweek in 2006. Dr. Reijo Pera is also George D. Smith Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and in the departments of genetics and obstetrics and gynecology. Her research is aimed at understanding the genetics of human development and in characterizing the basic properties of normal and disease-bearing human pluripotent stem cells, especially their ability to differentiate to all cell types. Reijo Pera’s work has garnered more than $28 million in research awards, including several ongoing grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Carlos Simón, M.D., Ph.D., CSO

Position/Education: Carlos Simón is a Board Certified and Full Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Valencia; Adjunct Clinical Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California; Scientific Director of IGENOMIX, and former Scientific Director of Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad (IVI).

Research: Dr. Simón’s basic and clinical research has contributed to the advance of Reproductive Medicine, specifically in the understanding of human endometrial receptivity, embryo viability, embryonic implantation and endometriosis. He discovered the relevance of the interleukin-1 system in embryonic implantation, and demonstrated the deleterious effect of high hormonal levels in patients with high response to gonadotrophins thus modifying the established clinical practice. He pioneered the concept that human oocytes are affected in endometriosis, thus changing the clinical practice in oocyte donation. He proposed a new embryo coculture system, now successfully used worldwide. His basic research on endometrial receptivity led him to create and patent a customized array named endometrial receptivity array (ERA) for the molecular diagnosis of endometrial receptivity. He has been awarded “Prize Jaime I 2011 in Medical Investigation” for his pioneering work in human endometrial receptivity disorders.

Andrew Sinclair, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Andrew Sinclair is Deputy Director of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. He is also a Professorial Fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Melbourne.

Research: Dr. Sinclair leads an NHMRC Program focusing on the molecular genetics of gonad development and its impact on patients with disorders of sex development (DSD) and is part of a team awarded a National Centre of Excellence focusing on the regulation of male germ cell differentiation and its impact on infertility and testicular cancer. His contributions have been fundamental to the advancement of the field, including the identification and characterization of the human testis determining gene (SRY) and other genes critical for gonad development. He has also implemented new, accurate, rapid and comprehensive diagnostic procedures to improve outcomes for patients with DSD.

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.

Position/Education: Dr. Woodruff is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Professor of Molecular Biosciences, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and chief of the Division of Fertility Preservation at Feinberg. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

Research: Dr. Woodruff pioneered the field of oncofertility, and has worked to translate her research to the clinical care of women who will lose their fertility due to cancer treatment. Her lab studies the development of the ovarian follicle, identify markers and determinants of egg quality, and discover how this basic biology can be applied to patients. This research includes the biological, cellular, and molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of the ovarian follicle, such as the study of endocrine, structural, and other environmental cues in the ovary, and an understanding of cell death within the follicle and supporting cells.