POINTS OF VIEW SEP 2015
Title:International Society of Vaccines - A Brief Introduction for New Members
By - Professor Shan Lu
While the concept of vaccination has a much longer history than many disciplines of the biological sciences, a worldwide professional organization for vaccinologists did not come into existence until the last two decades. For many years, vaccines were only considered a specific type of clinical product and most of those working on vaccines were from pharmaceutical companies tasked with developing and manufacturing vaccines. There are, in fact, professional groups that have an overlapping interest in vaccines, such as the International Alliance of Biological Standards (IABS), whose members are experienced in either the manufacturing of biologicals (mainly vaccines) or the regulatory review of vaccines at government agencies, such the US FDA. In addition, individual country-based organizations were formed in the past for vaccine professionals in certain countries, such as the Japanese Society for Vaccines (JSV).
Vaccines received much more attention by academic researchers in the 1990s, represented by the emergence of conferences such as “Modern Approaches to New Vaccines” organized by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. With the rapid progress of immunology and a more in-depth understanding of existing and emerging pathogens, more and more basic biological scientists became interested in vaccine-related research. Discoveries, such as DNA vaccine technology in the early 1990s, challenged the previous idea that vaccines had reached their maximum potential, leading to the notion that they had limited future growth except in the area of product development. There has been a growing consensus that more fundamental research is needed, particularly to address issues around development of effective vaccines against more challenging infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS.
The need for a worldwide professional organization for scientists working on vaccine research became apparent. The International Society of Vaccines (ISV) was formally established on March 21, 1994. In the following 14 years, ISV has tried various models to organize vaccinologists working in different parts of the world, either by hiring professional service groups or working with various commercial or non-for-profit organizations to run ISV activities. Unfortunately, none of these models were effective because there was no dedicated organizational structure run by ISV itself and there was no continued effort to recruit and grow ISV membership.
In 2008, ISV went through a major reorganization. A new organizational structure was established with a new generation of leadership, and the following have been accomplished since: 1) ISV is currently registered with the State of Massachusetts, USA as a legal corporate entity; 2) ISV received an independent tax filing status from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS); 3) subsequently, ISV received non-for-profit status with both the State of Massachusetts and the US IRS as a tax exempt organization; 4) ISV went through three open elections (in 2009, 2011, 2013) by a fully transparent and democratic process to elect members of Executive Board (EB), including ISV Officers; and 5) ISV Fellow, a special membership status, was established to recognize those people who have made a significant contribution to the field of vaccines.
Along with the above achievements, ISV has seen significant progress and the outcome has been quite impressive. ISV has grown from just a few leaders to more than 500 registered members between 2008 and 2015.
ISV has co-organized nine ISV Annual Global Congresses with Elsevier, publishing company for many high-quality scientific journals, including the journal, Vaccine. The ISV Annual Congress has become the world’s leading non-for-profit scientific conference in the area of vaccines, rotating among North America, Asia, and Europe at the following locations: Amsterdam, Boston, Singapore, Vienna, Seattle, Shanghai, Barcelona and Philadelphia in previous years. The 9th Congress will be held in Seoul, South Korea on Oct. 18-20, 2015.
Every two years, as part of the ISV Annual Congress, an Executive Board (EB) is elected by our regular ISV members. The current composition of the EB includes 11 members who are from countries in the North and South Americas, Europe, and Asia. A total of five Officers, including President, Secretary, Treasurer, Past-President, and President-Elect, are also elected every two years. Currently, there are 22 ISV Fellows who were nominated by general ISV members, and their final election was determined by a vote from the current ISV Fellows.
ISV has developed a highly informative website, including broad and useful information related to vaccines, such as journals, books, and conferences. Vaccinologists can also join ISV and renew their ISV membership online. A Paper of the Month is selected based on nomination by ISV members for those important reports related to new vaccine studies. An interactive forum is also included on the ISV website. In addition, ISV has developed its own social media platforms, including Facebook and LinkedIn. Each month, an ISV Newsletter is prepared including comments from ISV Fellows and EB members. ISV is open to collaboration with other professional societies, which share common interests related to vaccines, including those with certain regional representation, such as JSV, or those based on technical experience, such as IABS. ISV has established collaborations with many vaccine-related conferences by co-sponsoring and co-marketing each other’s programs.
ISV is working to expand its interactions with additional scientific journals that publish vaccine-related scientific reports, including special issues that are organized by ISV. ISV members are always welcome to make suggestions for the focus of these special issues. ISV will develop its independent annual congresses in the coming years to focus more on the interactions among ISV members and to promote significant scientific progress made by ISV members. ISV has established a number of subcommittees, which include regular ISV members. Each of these subcommittees will focus on one special area that is important to the better management and further growth of ISV.
ISV is the home of global vaccinologists. ISV members are welcome to provide constructive feedback to the EB and to ISV Officers, and more importantly, ISV members should feel compelled to invite more colleagues to join ISV, so we can work together to accomplish the ultimate objective of our profession: to develop better and safer vaccines for the promotion of global health.