In October of this year, a pioneering event will happen in Pittsburgh, PA. Hundreds of scientists, researchers, doctors, and academics will gather to create a vision for changing the course of women’s health that will pave the way for exciting innovations that could affect the health of humankind.
Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) will present the first Magee-Womens Research Summit, a conference that has high hopes for re-imagining everything from aging to how early human development intersects with precision medicine.
“What differentiates this summit from others on women’s health is that we’re not only talking about the current state of scientific research and achievements, but we’re also discussing the future of women’s health,” says Yoel Sadovsky, M.D., Executive Director, Magee-Womens Research Institute. “We’re trying to understand how early human development, the differences between males and females, and the process of aging can illuminate aspects of women’s health that can lead us to new research opportunities in the future. Most conferences have plenty of data to share and they promote scientific discussions. But this summit will focus on a vision for the future. Researchers are taking what they’ve done so far, and thinking more about the potential of new, exciting ideas that will change the course of women’s health and take it to a higher level.”
The Summit will host 30-40 speakers from around the world who are experts in women’s health or reproductive sciences. They will be featured in different types of talks, from keynotes and TED Talk-style presentations to panel discussions and breakouts. Sadovsky has worked to attract speakers and listeners from many disciplines, encouraging the sharing of knowledge and different approaches to women’s health. “We’re hoping to create a network for collaboration,” Sadvosky states. “It’s a unique opportunity for the top researchers in the world to partner together and inspire each other with innovative ideas that can be the foundation for future breakthroughs in research.”
No institution is better positioned to lead the discussion than MWRI. A global leader in early human development, reproductive biology, and women’s health, researchers from MWRI already collaborate with some of the largest names in health care around the world. The Institute has built a repository of information that’s unmatched, including one of the largest pregnancy databases and the largest cancer registry in the country. MWRI also has the benefit of a strong relationship with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a large university-affiliated academic medical center in the U.S., which is renowned for excellent clinical care. “We’re going to establish a compelling, urgent focus on women’s health that positions Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Research Institute as leaders in innovation and health care. Our work will in turn help to elevate the rest of the field,” says Sadovsky.
“This $1 million prize is designed to stimulate collaborative research between a scientist here at MWRI and another scientist in the region, country or world.”
During the Summit, discussions will explore the concept of 9-90. This research initiative investigates the impact of 9 months of pregnancy on 90-plus years of health in men and women. In addition, attendees will develop a better understanding of the origin of human health, women’s disease risks, sex differences that affect development, precision medicine, and the definition of wellness.
Another area of discussion will be aging and how it affects health. “Aging starts prior to delivery,” says Sadovsky. “The placenta ages before birth. Ovaries may age prematurely due to disease. Other systems may age prematurely leading to conditions we’re trying to prevent. We want to think about aging in a different way to see how we can use that information across a woman’s lifespan.”
The exchange of new ideas from thought leaders isn’t the only attraction to this event. The Summit also features the first ever “Magee Prize.” This grant, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is for collaborative, bold, and transformational research in any area of inquiry within the reproductive sciences. “This $1 million prize is designed to stimulate collaborative research between a scientist here at MWRI and another scientist in the region, country or world,” states Sadovsky. “We want them to work together on an innovative, creative research aspect of women’s health that cannot be funded by traditional funding mechanisms. When you apply for an NIH grant, you have to have preliminary data. Sometimes a researcher will be inclined to take a more conservative approach to make sure that the funding is awarded. Here, we’re looking for something other than what we’ve seen before. As a byproduct, we establish Pittsburgh as a hub for that kind of bold research.”
Criteria for the prize are rigorous, and must include a component of early human development, and/or a longitudinal, lifespan approach to any project within the reproductive sciences and women’s health. The research must be collaborative and trans-disciplinary. And it must be novel in concept or methodology, involving new models or drugs, and ideally based on a high-risk and high-reward approach. The winner(s) of the award will be announced at the Summit, and the money will be split between the scientists.
Funding for the prize is provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which was inspired by MWRI’s focus on women’s health and its impact on population health. “The RK Mellon Foundation has been fully engaged from the inception,” says Sadovsky. “Not only from an economic point of view, but also from a conceptual point of view. We want to work together to make sure the prize truly establishes a field that’s critical to humankind and establishes Pittsburgh as a leader in that field.” He adds, “Foundations give grants, but to have a $1 million grant from Pittsburgh to focus on women’s health globally is unique.”
Through the Magee-Womens Research Summit and Magee Prize, MWRI has the opportunity to put women’s health front and center on a global stage. It is a chance to create a healthier, longer lifespan for men and women today and for future generations. And it’s only the beginning. “We want to keep the conversation going for years to come,” says Sadovsky. “When I’ve talked to researchers, they love the concept, the vision, the prize, and the fact that we’re not just doing a traditional conference. They know that we’re the largest research center for women’s health in the country. But we’re taking it to a higher level and we are making Magee a beacon to inform the scientific world about issues critical to health. That’s what everyone is so excited about.”
To learn more about the Magee Summit and for information on attending, visit MageeSummit.org.