The 48th meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)—a body of outside scientific experts that reviews the research programs of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) and makes recommendations to RERF's Board of Directors and Board of Councilors with respect to adoption of new research programs and/or continuation or alteration of programs under progress—was held over three days, March 25–27, 2021. This year, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the meeting was held remotely by Zoom centered on RERF's Hiroshima Laboratory.
During the three days, 10 regular SAC scientific advisors participated from the United States and Japan, added to which were four special scientific advisors, totaling 14 participants. Two auditors and 14 observers, including the RERF Board of Councilors, also viewed the proceedings.
The department undergoing extensive SAC review rotates each year. This time, the Epidemiology Department was the subject of review. Also discussed at the meeting were the Research Resource Center (RRC), a still-developing unit tasked with integrating scientific and biosample data and supporting use of such information in collaborative research, creating and managing the entirety of archived records at the institute, and constructing an integrated system using which RERF researchers can search and access the organization's research materials and scientific data; the Biosample Research Center (BRC), an office that centrally manages and preserves in freezers the urine, blood, and other biosamples donated by survivors and their children and consolidates databases of such biosample information; the Molecular Biosamples Department (MBS), which handles research into genetics (heredity/DNA) and genomics (life sciences for the study of the genome and genes), among other work; and the Strategic Plan, a blueprint for RERF's future scientific research and operations.
Dr. Ohtsura Niwa, RERF Chairman, opened the meeting on March 25 by explaining, among other topics, RERF's Strategic Plan, which highlights the importance of understanding not only radiation risks in populations but also such risks in individuals, as well as how to go about giving back RERF's research in some form to A-bomb survivors and their children.
On the second day, progress in preparations toward RRC establishment was explained. The BRC was next, including its role in future collaborative studies using biosamples from A-bomb survivors and their children. That was followed by an explanation of MBS activities, including a plan for research into genetic effects at the DNA level among A-bomb survivor family groups (called “trios,” indicating parents and a child, with at least one of the parents being an A-bomb survivor) to investigate whether radiogenic mutations are inherited from exposed parents based on comparisons of DNA sequences of the parents and children.
On the morning of the final day, March 27, SAC members discussed their recommendations. Following the deliberations, a press conference gathering eight media organizations was held by Zoom. To start, Dr. Chisato Nagata, Professor, Gifu University Graduate School of Medicine, summarized the three days of discussions in her role as SAC Co-chair. Dr. Jonine Bernstein, the other SAC Co-chair and Attending Epidemiologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was unable to participate in the event given her U.S. location.
Dr. Nagata's summary involved the following: that with the pre-meeting presentation videos, scientific advisors were able to submit questions and comments ahead of time; that because of the meeting's focus, four special scientific advisors with expertise in research resource management/operations and epidemiology also participated; that RERF leadership had developed a sound strategic plan and that the SAC is looking forward to its implementation; that the BRC had made progress in its biosample database and management system (whereby biosamples would be stored in Japan, and those data would be uploaded to ‘the cloud' for collaborative use) and that its security infrastructure will become increasingly important given plans for collaborative biosample use; that the research conducted by the Epidemiology Department is among the most important elements of RERF work and that expectations are high for future projects; and that the development of the RRC is crucial as a foundation for RERF's future research. The importance of recruiting younger scientists with expertise related to future research activities as outlined in the Strategic Plan was also noted.
Below is a list of SAC meeting participants:SCIENTIFIC ADVISORS
SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC ADVISORS