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NEONATAL SOCIETY AUTUMN 2001 NEWSLETTER

2001 Summer Meeting at the University of Nottingham - 28/29 June

 I am perhaps biased but I thought this was an excellent meeting! There were excellent presentations on both basic science and clinical neonatology interspersed with two memorable guest lecturers. Dr Howard Clark, the winner of the inaugural Young Neonatologist’s Prize, gave a lecture entitled “Surfactant proteins A + D in lung infection and inflammation” which amply confirmed that he was a worthy winner. The Society has no plans to publish the lectures given by the winners of this prize but Early Human Development has recently called for annotations on subjects related to fetal or neonatal science and it may be that the applicants for the Young Neonatologist’s Prize, both successful and unsuccessful, would wish to consider submitting a summary of their work to this journal. Certainly the standard of applicants was extremely high and it is encouraging that so much excellent research continues in this field.

Lord Winston arrived with a few minutes to spare before the time he was due to speak and proceeded to give a breathtaking review of “Clouds over science”. Robert Winston is the master of extemporisation and his talk ranged from a 62 year-old benefiting from in-vitro fertilisation to nuclear fuels, sex discrimination, mitochondrial transfer, tissue engineering, royalty, gene therapy and nature versus nurture in relation to the human genome project. After this intellectual tour de force, everyone was ready for a journey along the river Trent on the “Nottingham Princess” accompanied by conference dinner, drinks and jazz band.

The following day, the keynote lecture was given by Professor Keith Campbell entitled “Cloning – a new model of embryo and fetal mortality?” Keith Campbell had been involved with the birth of Megan and Morag in 1995 using nuclear transfer long before the “conception” of Dolly the famous ewe cloned from mammary gland epithelial cells. However, only 2% of attempts at cloning have been successful to date. Whilst the lay media have dealt with cloning in Frankensteinian terms, and Keith Campbell did pay due regard to the difficult ethical issues, he also pointed to the applications to xenotransplantation, “nutraceuticals” ageing, reproduction, gene therapy and animal models of human disease. Just as Robert Winston did, Keith Campbell concluded by discussing nature versus nurture but in relation to the human cloning debate.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our sponsors for this meeting, all of those involved in the organisation and all of those who attended. There were some problems with the PowerPoint presentations in the first session, despite previous rehearsals with the Audio-Visual Department. You will be pleased to know that I have negotiated, on behalf of the Society, a 50% reduction in the fee for audio-visual support. The fact that the meeting was held on Thursday and Friday rather than encroaching on a weekend did not seem to be a deterrent to attendance.

Future Meetings

The next meeting of the Neonatal Society will take place on Thursday 29 November 2001 at The Royal Society of Medicine, Wimpole Street, London. The deadline for abstracts is 29 October 2001 and should be sent to me preferably by e.mail or by post to arrive before midnight on that day. Details on submitting abstracts can be found at the Society’s website. Travel bursaries are available to support researchers who would otherwise be unable to attend the Society’s meetings and are available to both scientists and clinicians who have yet to take up a tenured post. Details are available from the Treasurer, Professor Anne Greenough at King’s College Hospital, London.

The inaugural Curosurf lecture for the Autumn meeting on 29 November is Professor David Leon from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who will speak on “Fetal programming: how real, how relevant?” David Leon gave a keynote lecture on this theme at the recent Fetal and Neonatal Physiological Society conference in Auckland and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The Society has had many presentations over the last decade on the theme of programming, both scientific aspects and clinical, and I am sure you will enjoy the rigour which an epidemiologist brings to this field.

The theme of the Spring Meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine on 7 March 2002 is loosely that of adolescence and pregnancy. We have already invited two keynote speakers who will give the following lectures: John Tripp on reducing teenage pregnancy, Jacqueline Wallace on nutrition in adolescent pregnancy. Andrew Prentice will give the McCance Lecture.

Abstract Publications

The abstracts from papers presented at the meeting on 2 November 2000 have been published in Early Human Development (2001) 63, 53-63.

New Members

The following have been elected members of the Society: Charlotte Bennett, Michael Beresford, Hassan Gaili, Gosala Gopalakrishnan, Lucy Howell, Brendan Murphy, Sam Oddie, Martin Slack.

Current Controversies in Academic Research

There are two documents which you may wish to read if you have not already done so. First is the Government’s proposals on research governance which cover all research which involves humans, human tissues, samples from humans or human data. This can be found at www.doh.gov.uk/research I have also written a summary document of the challenges which ensue from this to brief the University of Nottingham and I will be happy to send a copy to anyone who writes to request this. The demands for increasing research governance have followed from the Government’s enquiries in Bristol, Alder Hey and North Staffordshire and are not going to go away. Secondly, there is increasing concern about the recruitment to clinical academic posts. The difficulties are not peculiar to neonatal research and you may find the generic arguments discussed in the document by the Federation of Associations of Clinical Professors entitled “What is the future for clinical academics?” If you wish to contact me I can send you this as an email attachment.

Terence Stephenson
Meetings Secretary

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