SECOND DAY: 27/08/2020
Exposition of Dr. Ana María Franchi, President of CONICET

The second day began with a presentation by Dr. Ana María Franchi, President of the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), who first referred to the relevance of the Biology and Health areas within the scientific plant of the CONICET, bringing together 30% of its researchers and 60% of its scholarship holders. She also alluded to the different tools that CONICET offers for career development; among them doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships, health researcher and researcher careers, as well as support staff careers, for equipment, laboratories, animal houses, etc.

She highlighted the performance of the different Institutes dependent on CONICET, the programs with universities, as well as the coordinated support of the National Agency for the Promotion of Research, Technological Development and Innovation to various projects in the field of bioengineering and health.

She also pointed out the relevance of translational research, the conjunction of research aimed at solving biomedical problems, together with preclinical and clinical research, implementation, as well as transfer to clinical practice and health policies. In this regard, she referred to the Translational Health Research Network (RITS), where CONICET articulates and coordinates multidisciplinary efforts to improve the health and quality of life of the population. He also referred to the Institute of Translational Medicine and Biomedical Engineering (IMTIB) a tripartite executing unit (CONICET, Instituto Universitario Hospital Italiano and Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires) in order to transfer the discoveries of basic research and technological developments to the care of patients, the community and the national productive sector.

She concluded by highlighting that the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic made it possible to verify how the country’s research system was able to combine the actions of the most diverse disciplines to quickly translate solutions to face it.

Presentation of Dra. Ana María Franchi| CONICET: 

Exposition of Mg. María Cecilia Sleiman, Undersecretary of Policies in Science, Technology and Innovation; Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation

The Mg. María Cecilia Sleiman began by qualifying Biomedical Engineering as a strategic sector that is supported by different projects and platforms. She pointed out that this is contemplated in the National Science, Technology and Innovation Plans (“Innovative Argentina”) both for the period ending in 2020 (which is still in force) and the one projected towards 2030.

Argentina has an internationally recognized biomedical tradition and a high academic level that places it in a privileged place among countries with a similar level of socioeconomic development. It also has a pharmaceutical industry that is oriented towards the most innovative production patterns with advanced technologies.

In this context, the country is in a position to make important advances in health care for its population, as well as to achieve greater insertion in the world market through biosimilars and the innovation and application of technologies for the development of biological products, including monoclonal antibodies from the use of new cell lines, processes and analytical methods. In infectious diseases, it has technological development and innovation to produce diagnostic kits, vaccines and treatments. Regarding chronic diseases, there are technologies for early diagnosis and drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), as well as diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, etc. Likewise, capacities are being developed in tissue bioengineering for the repair or replacement of tissues such as bones, skin, cartilage, heart valves, etc.

In relation to technological platforms, there are various support units, equipped with the latest technology and staffed with specialized personnel who offer support services for research and technological development, both to academic institutions and to industry. The genomics, stem cells and bioinformatics platforms are also being strengthened.

Later, she referred to the COVID-19 Unit established by the Ministry with the aim of coordinating the capacities of the scientific and technological system to carry out diagnostic and research tasks on COVID-19.

This Unit has been promoting actions such as the following: (a) development of rapid diagnostic kits for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 based on different technological platforms, (b) making available the capacities of various research centers of the scientific system and technological (depending on CONICET, universities and decentralized organizations) in terms of equipment, human resources and available supplies, for the diagnosis of infection by SARS-CoV-2, (c) development of computer systems to detect cases and guarantee care and follow-up ; for example, the “Caring” application provides information to describe potential epidemiological scenarios as social, economic and administrative activities are reactivated.

She concluded by highlighting the speed with which different research teams contributed to providing effective and timely responses to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presentation of Mg. María Cecilia Sleiman| Mincyt:

Presentation and Exposition of Dr. Shankar Krishnan (President of IFMBE)
Plenary Speaker

Virginia Ballarin presented the Conference Plenary Speaker, Dr. Shankar Krishnan (IFMBE President), whose theme was “Adoption of emerging technologies to improve medical humanism.”

Dr. Krishnan began by stating the objectives and clarifying the central concepts of his presentation. The objectives were the following: (a) to characterize the humanistic conception of medicine (medical humanism, HM), (b) to characterize a set of medical applications of emerging technologies (ET), and (c) to analyze the impacts of ET on the HM.

In his clarification of central concepts, he defined Humanism as: (a) a belief system that assigns primordial importance to the human person, regardless of religious or supernatural beliefs, (b) it is based on convictions about values and intrinsic goodness of the human person, and (c) emphasizes common human needs and seeks rational ways to solve their problems.

The characteristics of Medical Humanism (HM) are as follows: (a) it places the patient at the center of care, (b) it promotes a better understanding of human experiences, both of the patient and the health personnel, (c) contingent the objectives and professional actions to the real needs of the patient, (d) applies reason and science to find the best ways to help the patient maintain health, and (e) is based on a harmonious and vigorous relationship between the patient and health personnel (doctor, nurse, etc.) as an essential requirement for adequate care. Medical Humanism (HM) is characterized by the following values: (a) Respect, (b) Empathy, (c) Compassion, (d) Ethics and (e) Reliability.

Among the Emerging Technologies (ET) that can affect certain characteristics of Medical Humanism (HM) he mentioned the following: (a) digital health, (b) robotic surgery, (c) telemedicine, (d) remote monitoring, (e) nanotechnology, (f) artificial intelligence, (g) big data and analytical techniques, (h) brain-computer interaction, (i) artificial vision, (j) virtual reality, and (k) 3D printing of tissues and organs.

He pointed out that, although there is multiple evidence about the favorable impacts of ET on medical benefits, there is also a certain skepticism associated with possible unfavorable impacts of ET on some attributes of HM. Therefore, he emphasized the priority of making the application of TE compatible with the characteristics and values of the HM.

He concluded by pointing out that, in order to contribute to improving health care in the global community: (a) the validity of the HM must be improved through adequate education and training of health personnel to take into account all relevant factors, (b) the Biomedical engineers have vital and challenging roles -in association with academia, industry, hospitals, research units, government, regulatory agencies and professional associations- to contribute to making the application of TE compatible with the characteristics and values of HM, (c) it will be It is necessary to apply imagination and innovation to reconcile the growing improvement in care and technologies with the essential containment of costs in health services.

Presentation Prof. Dr. Krishnan | “Embracing Emerging Technologies for Enhancing Medical Humanism”:

Subsequently, a round table was held that was moderated by Natalia Lopez Celani (Argentine Chapter IEEE-EMBS, Bioengineering National University of San Juan) and Fernando Ballina (Advisor of CADIME and the DPT Foundation, Arturo Jauretche University), acting as panelists Roberto Lavarello ( Representative of the Administrative Committee of IEEE EMBS for Latin America and Caribbean Region), Eliot Vernet (President of CORAL), Rubén Acevedo (President of SABI), Luis Kun (Representative of IFMBE, IEEE SSIT and EMBS), Virginia Ballarin (Representative of IEEE WIE EMBS for Latin America and the Caribbean RegionRepresentative of CORAL), Ricardo Taborda (Representative IEEE SSIT Arg) and Leandro Cymberknop (President of the Argentine Chapter IEEE EMBS).

In her capacity as moderator, Natalia Lopez Celani stated the objectives of the round table: (a) indicate what actions and lines of work have been undertaken and analyze the relevance of their continuity, (b) identify possible milestones that have marked the trajectory and its possible projection into the future, and (c) analyze to what extent the performance of biomedical engineering responded to the expectations raised in 2010

Roberto Lavarello (Representative of the Administrative Committee of IEEE EMBS for Latin America and the Caribbean Region) referred particularly to the membership in the EMBS in Region 9 (Latin America) as of August 2020, which totals 663 members, which represents 8% of global membership (totaling 8,238 members). Within this participation, he pointed out that region 9 exhibits the peculiarity that more than 50% of its members are students, while in the world only 15% fall into that category. He stressed that this peculiarity represents an enormous and significant strength (largely originated in the EMBC’10) that it will be necessary to take advantage of in terms of involvement, commitment and effective participation.

Eliot Vernet (President of CORAL) raised the need to achieve continuity in the commitment of students, so that they can be trained to assume growing roles in society.

Rubén Acevedo (President of SABI), referred to the board of directors, the components and the regional chapters of the SABI. It currently has 200 partners, 70% professionals and 30% students. He referred to the relevant volunteer role played by graduates during the pandemic. Lastly, he highlighted that the biomedical engineering career registers –within engineering- the highest participation of women.

Luis Kun (Representative of IFMBE, IEEE-SSIT and EMBS) formulated an orientation for the students based on his own experiences. First of all, he advised them to become involved as volunteers in the committees and chapters of the relevant professional associations, since this will offer them valuable opportunities, it will allow them to expand their knowledge, capacities and abilities, connect with different actors, integrate diverse groups and incorporate learning that they can only be acquired in practice. He also suggested that they link up with organizations in academia (where ideas emerge), government (where the resources are), and industry (where they know what is being sold). He concluded by stating the priority of promoting student participation.

Virginia Ballarin (Representative of IEEE WIE EMBS for Latin America and Caribbean Region and Representative of CORAL) alluded to three stages of bioengineering, which culminated in the inclusion of cognitive sciences within her field of attention, together with the contributions of informatics, nanotechnology and biotechnology, in a confluence that practically implied a union between science and technology. Later she referred to the question of diversity in its different aspects (for example: gender, ethnic, cultural, languages, locations, abilities, professions or trades, beliefs, knowledge, ideas, etc). She pointed out that it is not a matter of incorporating diversity in the spaces for consultation and decision because “it is good” or because it is “politically correct”, but because these spaces: (a) work better when they are diverse, and (b) if they are not diverse perspectives and interests would be absent or excluded. She concluded by highlighting the importance of face-to-face meetings, since they allow ways of personal connection that are forbidden in the virtual mode (for example, that coffee and that informal chat, during an interval, with the expert one has as a reference). Finally, she expressed that a true “mentoring” cannot be developed at a distance.

Ricardo Taborda (Representative IEEE SSIT Arg) began by highlighting the semantic association (in English) of engineering (“engineering”) with the machine (“engine”) to point out that the teacher is responsible for stimulating and inducing the development of the “machine Most valuable in the world. From that point of view, he formulated the following five (5) lessons based on his own experience: (a) Do not fall in love with specialties; grow with diversity and cross-cultural fertilization, (b) It is essential to practice and “live” multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, whose possibilities are only limited by imagination, (c) We can choose the topic to which we are going to dedicate ourselves, but it is very probable that the subjects choose us; (d) Do everything possible so that knowledge reaches the appropriate place, to the people who should use it and at the right time, and (e) No one is the owner of the truth, least of all the “absolute truth”. As we all have a small part of the truth, the ideal is to take the place of that “someone” who does the things that must be done (for example: to contribute to a true “knowledge management”). He concluded by pointing out that the best role of the teacher is to “inspire followers”.

Leandro Cymberknop (President of the Argentine Chapter IEEE-EMBS) highlighted the importance for students of getting involved in volunteering in society. It allows them to meet people and join various groups, participate in meetings and conferences of professional interest, start writing to express their own ideas. Team members have a mission to orient, guide, and inspire them by their own example. Volunteering represents a relevant source of opportunities for students to connect with academia and with industry.

Fernando Ballina (Advisor of CADIME and the DPT Foundation, Arturo Jauretche University) referred to the actions undertaken in Argentina due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly to the construction -in parallel- of twelve (12) modular field hospitals in different parts of the country. This implied the need to coordinate different jurisdictions (national, provincial, municipal) and ministries (Health, Public Works). The hospitals are equipped with intensive care units (with 24 beds) and intermediate inpatient units. Since equipment was a critical resource around the world, it was the determining factor in certain delays in the full enablement of units. The panelist highlighted the voluntary collaboration of final year bioengineering students for the installation and commissioning of the equipment. He pointed out that, even with the effort made and the difficulty that virtual study implied, the students involved exhibited a clear drive and motivation to study with greater enthusiasm. Some students (with technical degrees) were already hired as technicians in hospitals.