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Sharing scientific insights

Scientific symposium case study: understanding the biological basis of autism by exploring insights from other developmental disorders

Autism is estimated to affect one per cent of the population worldwide but the causes of the disorder are not fully understood. Current treatments concentrate on alleviating symptoms rather than the underlying cause of the condition.

Tudor Reilly worked in partnership with Roche and Nature Medicine to organise a high-profile scientific symposium to explore how insights from other developmental disorders could increase the understanding of the biological basis of autism. The international, invitation-only event enabled  leading scientists and academics from eight European countries to share ideas with peers from the US, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

Objectives
The symposium had three key objectives:
• To encourage scientific debate among speakers and delegates to inform new research into autism
• To share recent breakthroughs in other developmental disorders, such as Fragile X, which may have implications for autism
• To encourage the development of new treatments for autism.

 

A group shot of those involved with the symposium
High-profile speakers helped stimulate debate about research into autism

 

Tactics
Tudor Reilly worked with Roche and Nature Medicine to create a high-profile symposium to engage academics, scientists and clinicians across the world, as well as those at Roche exploring new approaches to developmental disorders. Speakers came from prestigious institutions such as the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, California, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Yale School of Medicine.

The symposium, as part of the nature conferences program, was co-sponsored by Nature Medicine, a leading journal in the field of biomedical research. With an estimated global readership of 31,600 and an online audience of almost 135,000 unique users per month, their partnership was paramount in raising awareness and adding credibility to the scientific element of the symposium.

The symposiums scientific committee included representatives from Roche and Nature Medicine as well as leading figures in the field of neuroscience.

Tudor Reilly worked alongside the scientific committee to secure 17 eminent speakers, chosen for their innovative approaches to research – experts who had changed the way science approaches the underlying causes of disorders such as autism.

To ensure the highest level of academic debate, the conference needed to be outstanding in terms of delegates. Delegates applied to attend through the event website, on nature.com - one of the world's leading scientific sites. Applications were approved by the organising committee. Over 30 Roche scientists attended the event to help spark new thinking in research. Networking opportunities were vital, so social events were organised around the scientific sessions to facilitate interactions. A scientific poster session, during which delegates presented their own research, also encouraged networking and knowledge sharing.

The symposium was promoted via the branded symposium website, general banner advertising on nature.com, print advertising in Nature Medicine and Nature Neuroscience, and email promotion to nature.com registrants. The conference materials included a brochure containing abstracts of the speakers' talks and delegates' poster presentations.  

Results 
The symposium, the second in the series, was characterised by the quality of the high-profile speakers and delegates, both established and emerging leaders in the field of neuroscience. Speakers included award-winning scientists who had recently published groundbreaking research in molecular and cellular cognition, the genetics of autism and Fragile X syndrome, and the pathophysiology of Rett syndrome.

The final programme offered a well-balanced mix of scientific sessions and networking opportunities. As a result, there was a high demand for places at the symposium: 95 people applied to attend, and the number of places originally intended for external delegates was raised from 50 to 65.

Evaluation
The event was evaluated through an anonymous feedback form distributed to all attendees during the event. The feedback was outstanding – 97 per cent of respondents felt the symposium was useful, and 92 per cent rated the quality of Q&A and discussion during the event as 'excellent' or 'good.'

Media outreach was also successful. Tudor Reilly worked with Roche to secure attendance of reporters from targeted publications, including Bloomberg News and Swiss and German daily newspapers.

In an editorial published after the symposium, Juan Carlos Lopez, chief editor of Nature Medicine wrote: "Ten years ago, if someone had suggested that we organise a translational meeting on autism and related disorders, we would have regarded the idea as too premature. The fact that the Roche-Nature Medicine Translational Neuroscience Symposium… was one of the best meetings we have ever been involved in clearly illustrates how far this discipline has come in a decade."

 

Case study details

Client: Roche/Nature Publishing Group
Agency: Tudor Reilly
Event: Roche-Nature Medicine Translational Neuroscience Symposium 2009: Autism and other developmental disorders
Timescale: September 2008 to April 2009

17th June 2010

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