As early as in 2003, discussion began within the Congress Programme Committee and some Working Groups (WGs) of the ESC to establish a transversal structure bringing together expertise, initiatives and a common vision from European scientists dealing with basic cardiovascular sciences within and outside of the ESC.
Representation of basic science in the ESC programme had traditionally been scanty, dating back to the original structure of the ESC as a society of professionals, practicing cardiologists and academicians, with little representation of basic scientists. In addition, at major variance from the American Heart Association, the ESC is not a funding agency for research in general, and for basic science in particular. However ESC WGs already contained a solid nucleus of basic scientists in several areas, and WGs were actually, at that time, the way by which basic scientists, not usually affiliated with national cardiological societies, could become ESC members. Several WGs were already predominantly or largely basic research-oriented:
- Pathogenesis of Atherosclerosis
- Coronary Pathophysiology and Microcirculation
- Developmental Anatomy and Pathology
- Cellular Biology of the Heart
- Cardiac Cellular Electrophysiology
- Myocardial Function
- Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Drug Therapy
i.e. 8 out of a total of 27 WGs existing at that time. The overall number of members in these WGs totalled over 1,250.
These WGs and their members contributed significantly to the scientific profile of the ESC by organising their own WG meetings, and by participating in the ESC Congress. Through this membership, the ESC as an organisation could claim to be representative for cardiovascular medicine in Europe. Such scientists were responsible for basic science proposals for the ESC Congress Programme, ultimately structured in what was called “The Basic Science Track” in the ESC Congress.
For such basic scientists, being part of the ESC was perceived as advantageous, as the ESC is a financially and politically strong European organisation, which could help in setting research priorities and funding at European level. The ESC had the potential to be the platform for exchange between basic science and clinical cardiology.
In addition to already existing members of the ESC dealing with Basic Sciences, there were (are) several other independent organisations representing aspects of basic cardiovascular science in Europe. These included:
- European Section of the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR)
- European Vascular Biology Association (EVBA)
- European Society for Microcirculation (ESM)
- European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS)
- European Association for Cardiovascular Pathology (EACVP)
- European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD)
- European Council for Cardiovascular Research (ECCR).
Most of these Societies agreed in participating in the discussions for the establishment of the Council for Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (CBCS): ISHR, EVBA, ESM. The EAS, not present in the original discussions, joined the group later.
The constitution of the CBCS, proposed back in 2003 by Karin Sipido and Raffaele De Caterina was then officially approved by the ESC Board during the ESC Spring Summit at the European Heart House in April 2004, under Michal Tendera’s Presidency, with the following:
Mission: To make the ESC the natural forum of expression for Basic Sciences related to cardiovascular medicine in Europe; And with the Vision of promoting the participation of basic scientists in the ESC Congress, encouraging basic cardiovascular sciences in Europe, increasing the translation of basic research into clinical application in cardiovascular areas.
The CBCS has thus been the first platform in Europe where all areas of cardiovascular research are present. It encompassed representation from most entities dealing with basic cardiovascular science in Europe, both within the ESC (WGs) and outside of the ESC (“Sister Societies”).
Tasks of the Council were at that time identified as follows:
- Providing expert input into the basic science sessions at the ESC Congress:
- Suggesting contributions to the regular programme with emphasis on ‘Bench-to-Bedside’
- Advising on the Basic Science Track, presenting developments in basic science to the general attendance
- proposing Basic Science sessions focused at the research community
- Contribution to Guidelines, by providing basic background for medical interventions
- Organisation of thematic meetings
- Constitution of a platform for communication with other European basic science organisations
- Communication with the American Heart Association (AHA) Council for Basic Cardiovascular Sciences.
Members of the Council are the representatives of basic cardiovascular scientists in Europe. Basic scientists can become members of the ESC (not of the Council) through participating WGs, Associations or National Societies.
The Council was decided to be composed of:
- representatives from participating WGs (see above)
- representatives of affiliated Societies (see above)
- the Editor of Cardiovascular Research, leading ESC journal for basic cardiovascular sciences.
At that time, also a first set of Rules and Regulations.
The Nucleus met for the first time after its establishment at the ESC Congress in Munich 2004. Here Andrew Newby was elected as the first Chairman.
The initial schedule of priorities immediately communicated and negotiated with the ESC Board, was:
- Gaining recognition within the ESC as the authoritative voice of basic scientists
- Establishing greatly improved communication and trust between ESC and the Sister Societies
- Establishing the Basic Science Poster Reception evening to improve networking opportunities for basic scientists during the ESC Congress
- Establishing a system for pre-discussing and pre-arranging the sets of proposals for the ESC Congress
- Establishing a new joint research fellowship award with the AHA Basic Cardiovascular Science Council – The Norman R. Alpert Visiting Scientist Award, thanks to a generous donation, and the initiative of Gerd Hasenfuss
- Establishing the concept of an Outstanding Achievement Award
- Introducing Travel Grants for young Basic Scientists to attend the ESC Congress.
The next Chairperson of the Council was Karin Sipido (Leuven, Belgium, 2006-2008) who put forward 3 main goals for the next 2 years:
- to increase basic science activity within the ESC and secure support for it
- to strengthen the relations with the AHA sister organisations
- to position the Council as European basic science platform.
Much discussion took place at that time on whether the Council should evolve into an Association or not. Eventually, also after in-depth consultation with the ESC President Kim Fox and the Past-President Michal Tendera, it was decided to stay as a horizontal organisation within the ESC, intersecting, in a matrix model, WGs and Associations viewed as vertical structures aimed at specific purposes (disease- or technique-oriented).
Main activities were the following:
- Joining of the Council by the European Association of Cardiovascular Pathologists (EACVP)
- Representation of the Heart Failure Association of the ESC on the Council
- Participation of the Council in all major Committees, including the Congress Programme Committee and the Guidelines Committee, and in the developing ESC Research Foundation
- Providing financial support by the CBCS of important meetings and congresses of WGs (small focused meetings of high scientific standard), in parallel to promoting the ESC Congress where the Council contribution is mainly with emphasis on translational science
- Contributions to the Winter Meeting on translational science of the Heart Failure Association with a named Council Lecture
- Continuation of the Poster Reception at the ESC Congress, during which scientists with an abstract accepted at the Congress are offered the chance of re-displaying their research with a poster, in a nice friendly and interactive environment, with food and wine provided
- Continuation of the Norman R. Alpert Visiting Scientist Award
- Establishment and refinement of the Outstanding Achievement Award
- Re-launching the Basic Science Lecture as the William Harvey Basic Science Lecture at the ESC Congress
- Establishment of the Science Hotline Sessions at the ESC Congress
- Representation of the Council in the EU Relation Committee where a subcommittee for research was to be established.
The two most important decisions taken during that time were however:
- The establishment of the Summer School on Cardiovascular Biology, planned, for its first edition, for July 2009, chaired by Andrew Newby and Jean-Luc Balligand
- The launching of the First Meeting of the Council, Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology, to be run in Berlin from 15-18 July 210, with Axel Pries as main organiser.
These new activities follow the successful and growing participation of the Council in ESC core activities and complement these with events focused towards basic cardiovascular scientists. The emphasis is on the European dimension and a multidisciplinary approach, offering a forum for exchange across WGs and Sister Societies under the umbrella of the ESC Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science.
At the ESC Congress in Munich 2008, Raffaele De Caterina took over as Chairman.
These are times of consolidation and verification. All past initiatives will be continued. We will improve the website as the showcase of all Council initiatives. The Council has established a method and a system for improving the quality of scientific proposals for the annual ESC Congress, and this model can possibly be exported to other ESC bodies. 2009 will be the year of the Summer School in Cardiovascular Biology, and we hope that, if successful, the initiative is repeated. Immediately after its occurrence, an evaluation process will be done to determine when and how to re-organise it.
The greatest challenge ahead will be the organisation of the first meeting of the Council, Frontiers in Cardiovascular Biology, in 2010. For that event, all WGs and most Sister Societies participating in the Council will not hold their own scientific meeting to favour the participation of basic scientists from all aspects of cardiovascular biology in this unique meeting, the programme of which is rapidly taking shape. It will be a major financial challenge, but we trust that the importance of the endeavour is worth the risks.
Vivat, Crescat, Floreat
Raffaele De Caterina, Andrew Newby, Karin Sipido