The birth
What does IGIS do ?

The birth of IGIS

By Prof Erol Cerasi, Israel

The birth of IGISMany investigators like myself have been convinced for a very long time that without deranged insulin secretion hyperglycemia cannot develop. Thus, the ß-cell is at the core of the problem, and therefore it is obvious that much more research is needed on the normal and diseased islet if we wish to fully understand the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes and identify more efficient therapeutic approaches. But this would require a greater awareness of the role of the ß-cell in type 2 diabetes in order to attract more investigators to the field, which also must be accompanied by greater awareness from the part of public and private agencies to finance a larger volume of research. How can such a goal be achieved?

With this background in mind, discussions were initiated during late 1997 and early 1998 between myself, and Drs Christine Nathan and Didier Halimi, then at the Division of International Scientific Communication (CSI) at Servier. The following ideas were generated:

First, it had to be acknowledged that the number of talented scientists in the field of diabetes is not unlimited; therefore, to draw the existing scientists into insulin secretion/islet biology and recruit new talent into the area, the topic must be put into the front line of attention by attractive and sophisticated means.

Second, any action, whatever its nature, must have continuity in time; the arena of diabetes is replete with symposia, monographs, books, not to mention journal articles: addition of a solitary symposium or congress session or any other one-time event would be a drop in the ocean and lack any possibility of having the desired impact.

Third, the proper vehicle to coordinate the activities would be the creation of some form of “Insulin Secretion Club,” steered by a small committee composed of very senior scientists in the field of diabetes, with obvious emphasis on insulin secretion/islet biology.

Finally, it was suggested that the main activity of the group would be to plan a series of yearly symposia of the highest possible quality, which would analyze in depth front-line issues in the field of insulin secretion/islet biology within a small forum, in an exceptional environment; in other words, these meetings would be a yearly occurring highly exclusive event in the diabetes world.

Photo credits: IDRS Metabolism Diseases

What does IGIS do ?

What does IGIS do?The major activity of IGIS is to plan the Servier– IGIS Symposia, whose main attributes can be defined as follows. The symposia aim to boost interest and promote the dissemination of front-line research results within a wider medical public, and each symposium focuses on a central theme related to islet function /insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes. Of major importance for the credibility of the actions of IGIS and to enhance its impact on the scientific community, the symposia reject any type of promotional material, nor can they be linked, directly or indirectly, to drug launching activities. Furthermore, the IGIS Board has complete freedom in the choice of symposia topics and attendants.

The symposia last two days and take place each spring in Saint-Jean- Cap-Ferrat near Nice, France, attendance being limited to around 70 persons, half the participants senior scientists, the other half younger researchers, all by invitation only. The ambition has been to develop these symposia into very-highlevel meetings in which emphasis is on extensive interaction, and to create outstanding scientific and cultural/environmental conditions that render the symposia memorable events.

Three categories of attendants are invited to Servier–IGIS Symposia:

Speakers, who give either a 40-min lecture, often on a theme of general biological interest, followed by 20 min of discussion, or present a specific topic in a 20-min lecture followed by a 20-min discussion (we thus emphasize the value of discussion over formal presentation);

Chairpersons, who do not give a formal presentation, but direct and are expected to intensively contribute to the discussions;

Young investigators. This is one of the most attractive features of the Servier–IGIS Symposia: each senior investigator (speaker or chairperson) is asked to select one young investigator, from graduate student/resident to assistant professor level, either from his/her own group or from another laboratory. The young investigators are requested to present a poster within the topics of the given symposium, and expected to actively participate in the discussions.

Opening session of the 9th Servier-IGIS Symposium, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, 6-9 March, 2008.

The outcome of the Servier–IGIS Symposia is a publication that collects the lectures of the meeting in the form of review articles; each proceeding is therefore a concise reference book for the state-of-the-art in the field covered by the Symposium.

Thus, the proceedings together with the editorial form a yearly “public statement,” which reaches out to the diabetes-interested scientists and clinicians, repeatedly calling attention on the most up-to-date subjects related to insulin secretion/islet biology and type 2 diabetes. In addition to the central, Servier–IGIS Symposium related activities, IGIS Board members have participated in various national and regional meetings, lecturing on both IGIS itself and scientific topics related to IGIS at large or to the specific year’s Servier-IGIS Symposium.

Photo credits: IDRS Metabolism Diseases


The monolithic view of type 2 diabetes as a disease of insulin resistance alone has been shattered over recent years, with even staunch defenders of “Syndrome X” now acknowledging the need for ß-cell deficiency if nothing else at least as a contributing factor to the development of hyperglycemia. So why have the major American and European pharmaceutical industries with strong presence in diabetes, many of them with much larger resources than those of Servier, not initiated IGIS-like activities?

First, their diabetes researchers (as well as their external consultants) have been deeply committed to insulin resistance over decades, viewing the islet / insulin secretion field as “nonrelevant.”
Second, these companies are “big and heavy”: I am sure the same changes in the thinking of type 2 diabetes pathophysiology that we observe in the academic research world are occurring also among the researchers of these companies; however, every sailor knows that you do not change the course of a huge tanker easily!

Why Servier?

Why Servier?There is always an element of chance in encounters and in convergence of interests, as well as of “common language.” But beyond these, Servier has been a leader in diabetes treatment based on enhancement of ß-cell function for a very long period, it has not been “captured” by the insulin-resistance current, and Servier has the optimal size, allowing the “human” element to dominate in discussions, rather than rigid principles. Furthermore and most important, Servier has long-since realized that an educative, scientific approach, to be effective, must be devoid of commercial, promotional elements. This has allowed the IGIS Board members to accept the challenge of IGIS without fear of interference from Servier, or from being labelled “Servier persons.” And the editors of neither Diabetes nor Diabetes Obesity & Metabolism would not have given their “imprimatur” to the publication of an industry-funded supplement without being convinced of the fact that scientific criteria, and only scientific criteria, were at the basis of the symposia and its proceedings. Note that all contributions are peer-reviewed.

Has there been any benefit for Servier through IGIS? Probably not in terms of direct financial benefit. However, knowledge of Servier among leading diabetes researchers, mainly from North America, has increased dramatically since the beginning of the Symposia and more so since the appearance of the supplements, and the prestige of Servier among those who did know it has undoubtedly augmented. In terms of prestige, it’s difficult to imagine a better method for a science based pharmaceutical industry. A large quantitative step was taken when Dr Alain Ktorza, a senior academic diabetes basic researcher with major contribution in the field of ß-cell biology, as Head of Diabetes and Metabolism Research was appointed as Secretary of the IGIS Board brought a welcome scientific support to IGIS. Conversely, scientists from Servier attend the meetings and interact with world leaders in various areas of importance for drug discovery at Servier.

Photo credits: IDRS Metabolism Diseases