ICGEB’s Council – science for the world

October 27-28, 2020: ICGEB Trieste, Italy hosted the virtual session of the Council of Scientific Advisers. On the occasion of the 26th session of the Council, we hear from Roger N. Beachy, CSA member and Chair.

Greetings from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in the US.  Like many of you, we in the US are experiencing a significant rise in cases of Covid-19 disease and empathize with others around the globe that are in similar situations.  We celebrate the community of front-line health care workers, scientists, and administrators around the globe as we learn more about the causal agent, SARS-CoV2, and the disease it causes.  Like you, we are cautiously optimistic about the future of vaccine candidates and the distribution to those ultimately proven to be safe and effective. I was trained as a plant virologist and combined my career in fundamental sciences and in biotechnology, including developing a prototype vaccine for a coronavirus using a plant virus platform on which to construct an effective epitope. I have been privileged as a scientist and a science-administrator.

As a member of the ICGEB Council of Scientific Advisors since 2014, I could not be more proud of affiliation with the organization, including with its Vision and Mission and with the people who make it work: including its leadership, students and post-docs, scientists that provide platforms for discovery and experiential learning opportunities,  and of course the excellent staff that makes it all work. We all should be extremely pleased with the call-to-action in response to the current pandemic: previous calls led to focus on HIV and AIDS, cancer-based diseases, among other challenges in the more than 25 years since its founding. Future calls to action will come, of that there is no doubt.

Roger Beachy with the Interim Director and PIs at ICGEB New Delhi, India in 2014

My career in plant virology and pathology developed in the context of new insights in biological organisms that followed from the development of specific techniques: for example the separation of macro-molecules via electrophoresis in gels; recombinant DNA technologies and nucleotide sequencing; data management, analyses and interpretations; live cell imaging and high-resolution microscopy; structural biology and cryo-imaging coupled with analyses of cellular structures and macromolecules; computer sciences and AI-based predictions and interpretations of data.  And the list will continue to grow. These and other multi-generational breakthrough technologies are leading to translational sciences that benefit food and agriculture, environmental health, production of effective and safe vaccines, hospital treatments of diseases of many types, and many more conditions. We are fortunate to serve science in a time of rapid advances in technology and information management, as it will lead to greater service of science to society.  For many years my lab included a group that used biotechnology to address plant virus disease problems in Asia, South Asia, and Africa.  And I had the privilege to serve as a Science Advisor to ICRISAT, one of the members of the CGIAG group, located in Hyderabad, India. These experiences gave me a greater sense of obligation as a global scientist.

The vision of the ICGEB and its leadership over the past decade has been to use the best science and technology to address issues that are important in the lives of peoples in member countries and beyond. The mission resonates with each of us because it is the morally right thing to do. In these times of growing nationalism, it MUST be remembered that science has no borders, that personal responsibilities require our attention to global as well as local issues, and that those that are privileged to possess knowledge in S&T that can improve the lives of ordinary citizens, the poor and disadvantaged, and those underserved, are duty-bound to do so.  

We on the CSA are proud of the ICGEB, and are pleased to serve recognizing the deep responsibility that it carries. And we look forward to seeing you in person(!) in coming years.