Report on the 13th meeting of the Network for Young Researchers in Andrology (NYRA)

The 13th NYRA Meeting took place on May 29th-30th, 2021 as a satellite meeting preceding the 21st European Testis Workshop (ETW). The pandemic situation forced us to cancel the in-person edition, so in order to ensure the health and safety of all our attendees, we went online for the very first time! Despite the challenges derived from this unique scenario, 41 people registered for our 2-day event, representing 14 different countries.

Since the 2020 meeting was postponed, to keep the natural rhythm of the NYRA meetings, the structure of this year’s satellite meeting programme was exceptional. Normally, young researchers do not present their scientific work during the biannual ETW-satellite NYRA meetings. However, to compensate for the lack of the 2020 edition, young researchers had the opportunity to present their scientific works as selected oral and poster presentations. We were able to have very fruitful and interesting scientific discussions following 4 plenary talks given by outstanding invited speakers participating in the 21st ETW, 11 selected oral presentations and the 5 poster presentations included in the scientific programme.

The 13th NYRA Meeting started with the plenary talk given by Dr Aurora Ruiz-Herrera, head of the Genome Integrity and Instability research group (Institut de Biotecnologia i Biomedicina and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain), who inspired us with her latest findings on the tridimensional genome organization dynamics during spermatogenesis. Next, Dr Antoine H.F.M. Peters, group leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (University of Basel, Switzerland), shared his exciting results during his plenary talk about the mechanisms of chromatin remodeling during spermatogenesis and paternal epigenetic inheritance. Dr Nitzan Gonen was the last plenary speaker of the first day, who focused on the molecular mechanisms underlying sex determination. She showed us her current work on pathogenic variants in the fourth zinc finger domain of Wilms’ tumor 1 (WT1) gene that are associated with 46,XX testicular/ovotesticular DSD. She inspired the young researchers not only with her scientific findings, but also because she became a Principal Investigator at the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan, Israel) during the past year, being an example of scientific growth and success in the early stages of her career. The last day was opened with an amazing plenary talk given by Professor Sarah Robertson (The University of Adelaide, Australia), who showed us her fascinating research work on the immune system regulation of fertility and pregnancy during her plenary talk “How sperm persuade the female immune response to allow pregnancy”. 

To stimulate the non-scientific skills of the young attendees, the 13th NYRA Meeting was closed by the interactive workshop on transferable skills given by Jörg Stange from hfp Consulting, a company specialized in leadership in science, in which the attendees had the opportunity of working in groups to discover the skills that they acquire during their scientific career and are applicable in a non-scientific context.

Among all the young researchers’ presentations, special awards were given to Mélina Blanco (France) for the best oral presentation, Rukmali Wijayarathna (Australia) for the best poster presentation, Kien Tran (USA) for the best abstract selected for oral presentation, and Amy Luan (Australia) for the best abstract selected for poster presentation. Congratulations on the well-deserved awards!

Even though the social activities were limited by the online format, we kept the spirit of NYRA meetings alive by organizing the virtual version of our favourite social activity, the scientific speed-dating. During this session, the young researchers had the opportunity to interact with each other, as well as with NYRA Board members and invited speakers.

Scientific speed-dating

Synthesizing the answers to our event feedback survey, 100% of the responding attendees consider NYRA meetings useful/very useful for their career, finding the different sessions included in the programme relevant/very relevant  (invited speakers’ talks, selected oral/poster presentations, and the workshop). They were also satisfied/very satisfied with the organization of the online platform, communication emails, registration fee grants, and the selection of invited speakers. Overall, the feedback was very positive. To highlight some specific comments: “I loved the speed-dating!”, “Great organization, both from the NYRA Board and technical support”, “The event was very nice and lively even if held virtually, congrats!”.

The organization of this meeting was possible thanks to the contribution and support from our sponsors and partners: The Company of Biologists, the European Academy of Andrology, hfp Consulting, the Male Contraceptive Initiative, and the 21st European Testis Workshop. For the very first time in NYRA’s history, the registration fees from all the young attendees presenting their scientific work were covered with registration fee grants, given by The Company of Biologists to the 11 selected oral presentations, and by the European Academy of Andrology to the 5 poster presentations.

The NYRA Board would like to thank all the invited speakers, young attendees, technical secretariat, virtual team, and sponsors for their commitment during these tough times. We really hope to finally meet you in person at the 14th NYRA Meeting in Norwich, United Kingdom, in 2022

Announcement of the 14th NYRA Meeting in Norwich, UK, next September 2022