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HFSP 25th Anniversary - Lugano

The 25th anniversary of HFSP was celebrated just prior to the 14th Awardees Meeting at the Hotel Splendide Royal in Lugano on the 5 July 2014.

Opening Remarks

On the occasion of the annual Awardees Meeting in Lugano, HFSP held a special symposium to commemorate its 25th anniversary. The purpose of this symposium was to bring together experts in other fields to discuss questions concerning funding frontier research. The symposium was opened by Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, Swiss State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, who emphasized in his welcoming remarks that international collaboration is of high importance for Switzerland. While foreign experience  provides researchers with a solid foundation on which to build, it takes the concerted effort of countries in pooling expertise and making available opportunities to optimize their prospects for the future. In this regard the HFSP career path is the most promising and is unique in the life sciences.

The next speaker captured the attention of the audience because Hirofumi Nakasone, Member of the House of Councilors of the National Diet of Japan and son of the HFSP founder, former Prime Minister of Japan, Yasuhiro Nakasone, took to the stage. Mr. Nakasone expressed his gratitude to HFSP for having established the Nakasone Award to honor his father’s contribution to international scientific collaboration and was pleased to bestow the 2014 award on Uri Alon from Israel. From the outset, HFSP was perceived as a dynamic, long-term program. Its achievements are manifold and an anniversary is a good point to think about the future. In his vision for the future of HFSP, Mr. Nakasone mentioned several “grand challenges”, to be met by means of destructive innovations and the bringing together of young minds. He expects HFSP “…to take the lead by breathing new life into different fields and fusing them, by the expansion of international and intercontinental collaboration and by the use of flexible ideas of young researchers. I'm sure that confronting these challenges is the unique strength of the Program and that it cannot be done by other international organizations or countries. As long as these efforts are made, you will continue to provide the creative spark for the revolutionary development of the life sciences.”

Lecture on ‘Architecture and outreach’ by Mario Botta (Mendrisio, Switzerland)

Frontiers are found in many different areas of society, not only in scientific research. One example is architecture; world-renowned architect Mario Botta gave a lecture about these challenges based on some of the buildings for which he was responsible. Architects and their work are sometimes surrounded by the aura of gods but in fact architecture mirrors history. According to Mr. Botta, buildings or the architecture thereof are also images of the society that surrounds them. In that sense architecture has the potential to be strongly critical of society at large. Yet architecture has a responsibility to make our urban environment livable and hence more enjoyable.

In his talk, Mario Botta provided insightful comments and impressive views on his work, including buildings as different as the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center of Tel Aviv University, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MART) of Trento and Rovereto, the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, and even the wellness center of the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa, Switzerland.

Panel discussion on Human Frontiers

The second part of the symposium was introduced by moderator Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media, who asked key questions that were to frame the discussion. How do we identify and recognize a frontier if we find one? Are there particular ways to structure funding to support research at the frontiers? The contributions to the discussion were first given in the form of individual talks, starting with Claude Nicollier, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, who talked about Space, the last frontier. His introduction was followed by that of Susan Hockfield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, who expressed her concerns about the availability of funding for projects that aim to investigate problems beyond known boundaries in particular when these projects span traditional disciplines and countries. Finally Torsten Wiesel, President Emeritus, The Rockefeller University and former Secretary General of HFSPO, reminded the audience that HFSP’s mission was to support basic research. Internationality needs to be paired with interdisciplinarity to advance knowledge in the life sciences.

The three speakers agreed on their assessment that exploration of the frontiers can only be successful if scientists from different disciplines such as engineering, physics, chemistry and biology join forces. Therefore HFSP is well positioned to remain a key player in the future of basic research.

Background information on the 'Human Frontiers' panel discussion is available here.

The full programme of the anniversary meeting is available here