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International Bioelectrics Consortium

A Brief History of the International Bioelectrics Consortium

Bioelectrics has emerged as a new, exciting research field. It deals with the use and effect of intense, pulsed electric fields on biological cells and tissue. Although some effects of pulsed electric fields on cells have been known for more than 50 years, the emphasis was generally on electroporation of the plasma membrane using pulses with duration in excess of microseconds. Advances in pulsed power technology, involving the generation of intense, ultrashort electrical pulses, provided an opportunity to explore and utilize the effects of nanosecond electric pulses. The effects of such short pulses have been shown to reach into the cell interior, opening up new applications and allowing the use of novel pulse delivery devices such as wideband antennas.


First efforts to create a consortium to foster this new research field originated with three research institutions which are known for vibrant pulse power research: the research group at Old Dominion University's Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, the Pulsed Power Science team at Kumamoto University, Japan, and the Institute for Pulsed Power and Microwave Technology at the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Germany.

Cooperation among the three groups, which were led by Karl H. Schoenbach, Hidenori Akiyama, and Hansjoachim Bluhm, respectively, on the topics of bioelectrics began in 2002, with mutual visits and joint research projects by scientists of the three institutions. In 2005, this cooperative work had reached a level which made it desirable to have a formal research agreement establishing an International Bioelectrics Consortium. A Memorandum of Understanding was created which serves as the basis for international cooperation among the original members of the consortium and any new members.

The Memorandum of Understanding

The first three paragraphs of this MOU read:

"This agreement provides the basis for the formation of a research consortium ("Bioelectrics") in bioelectric research, in order to develop broad international research collaboration among the participating institutions in the emerging field of bioelectrics. The goals of the consortium are to: (1) Strengthen the field of bioelectrics by forming a consortium with worldwide visibility and impact; (2) Encourage the establishment of Centers of Excellence focused on bioelectrics; and (3) Provide the basis for successful grant proposals to national and international funding agencies. The consortium members will interact through tele-videoconferences and annual/bi-annual workshops. Themes of joint activities and the conditions for their execution (e.g., provisions for utilizing the results achieved) and arrangements for specific visits, exchanges of personnel or information and other forms of cooperation will be agreed to by the parties concerned in writing on a case-by-case basis. Old Dominion University (hereafter "ODU"), Norfolk, Virginia, USA, will perform the function of "Coordinator" for the consortium, to facilitate the activities of the consortium.

The following institutions will be the initial members of the consortium:
Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH (Institute for Pulsed Power and Microwave Technology, IHM) - Karlsruhe, Germany;
Kumamoto University (Graduate School of Science and Technology, 21st Century COE Programs on Pulsed Power Science and on Cell Fate Regulation Research and Education Unit) - Kumamoto, Japan;
Old Dominion University (Center for Bioelectrics) - Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

Other institutions may join the consortium by submitting an appropriate application to the Coordinator followed by unanimous agreement of the initial consortium members."

This Memorandum of Understanding was signed on November 11, 2005, by the President of Old Dominion University, Roseann Runte; the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board, Sigurd Lettow, and a member of the Executive Board, Reinhard Maschuw, at the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe; and finally, in a ceremony at Kumamoto University by the President of this University, Tatsuro Sakimoto.

A photograph showing the participants at this ceremony is shown below. From left to right, they are: H. Takano, Kumamoto University; Hansjoachim Bluhm, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe; A. Neuber, Texas Tech University; Stephen Beebe, Center for Bioelectrics; Tatsuro Sakimoto, President, Kumamoto University; R. Hackam, Editor, IEEE Transactions of Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation; Hidenori Akiyama, Kumamoto University; J. Thompson, University of Missouri; Karl Schoenbach, Center for Bioelectrics; and G. Rim, Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute.

In September 2006, another powerhouse in pulsed power technology, the University of Missouri, Columbia, joined the consortium as a full member. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Jim Thompson, Dean of the College of Engineering at this university.

In October of 2007, the Institute for Low-Temperature Plasmaphysics (Institut fuer Niedertemperatur-Plasmaphysik e.V) in Greifswald, Germany, joined the consortium, bringing a wealth of expertise in the use of low-temperature plasmas for medical and environmental applications to the International Consortium. Klaus-Dieter Weltmann, the Director of the Institute, signed the Memorandum of Understanding.

And in November 2008 at a teleconference of the five members, the applications of three new full members were approved. They are: the Center for Molecular Delivery at the University of South Florida, with Richard Gilbert as director; the Laboratory of Vectorology and Gene Transfer, CNRS, Institut Gustave-Roussy and University of Paris XI, Villejuif, with Louis Mir as Director; and IPBS Universite P Sabatier/CNRS in Toulouse, France, with Justin Teissie as leader of the Cellular Biophysics group. The new members brought a wealth of knowledge in basic bioelectric science as well as in applications, particularly in electrochemotherapy, to the consortium.

In October 2010 two additional members joined the consortium: Institute of Plasma Physics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic, with Petr Lukes as director; and the Department of Experimental Oncology, Institute of Oncology Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia, with Gregor Sersa as director.The Institute in Prague has a long history of research in the use of plasma and shockwaves for medical and environmental applications. The Institute in Ljubljana is well known for its research on medical applications of bioelectrics.

The newest member of the Bioelectrics Consortium, approved at the 2012 symposium in Kumamoto, is the Radiation Sources Laboratory, ENEA (Italian National agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development), Frascati, Italy, with Gian Pierro Gallerano as director. The expertise on electromagnetic radiation in this center promises to extend the research on bioelectrics into the high frequency, ultrashort pulse duration range.

To foster research cooperation, videoconferences between the consortium members, and workshops (now symposia) on bioelectrics were held. The first Workshop on Bioelectrics, with Karl H. Schoenbach as chair, was held in Norfolk (Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics) in March of 2005, with members of the research teams at the Center for Bioelectrics at Old Dominion University and the University of Kumamoto University participating. The second and third International Workshops on Bioelectrics, with Hidenori Akiyama and Sunao Katsuki as chairs, were held in Kumamoto, Japan, in November 2005, and February 2007, respectively, with representatives of all the members of the consortium and invited guests. The fourth Workshop on Bioelectrics was held in Karlsruhe, as part of the IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science in June of 2008, and the fifth workshop/symposium on Bioelectrics was conducted at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in June 2009. In June 2010 the Bioelectrics Conference was again held in Norfolk, VA, at the Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, where the conference was established. Richard Heller, the director of the center, chaired this conference. In 2011, the symposium was held for the first time in Europe, in Toulouse, France, with Justin Teissie chairing it. The following year, in September 2012, the Symposium was held again in Kumamoto, with Hidenori Akiyama as chair. The 2013 International Bioelectrics Symposium will be hosted by the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology with Wolfgang Frey as chair.

Not only the name has changed -- from Bioelectrics Workshop to International Bioelectrics Symposium -- the number of participants also has changed. Whereas only a small group, less than 20 scientists and engineers, attended the first workshop in 2005, the number of participants has dramatically increased. More than 150 participants attended the 2012 Bioelectrics Symposium in Kumamoto. Another indication for the growing interest in this new field of research was the successful publication of a special issue on Bioelectrics in the IEEE Transactions of Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation in 2009, with Wolfgang Frey, Richard Heller, and Karl H. Schoenbach as guest editors. The special issue with 20 publications on bioelectrics, was, as expected from publications in an IEEE Journal, focused on the physics and engineering side of this research. A special issue of the Journal of Bioelectrochemistry, planned for 2014, will likely be a stronger forum for the biologist in this interdisciplinary research. Guest editor for this upcoming special issue are Richard Gilbert, Wolfgang Frey, and Hidenori Akiyama.

Oct 17, 2011

Gintautas Saulis, PhD, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

"Electrochemical processes occurring during cell electromanipulation procedures and their consequences"

In 2010 the Frank Reidy Award for Outstanding Achievements in Bioelectrics was established by Frank Reidy, a strong supporter of the new field of bioelectrics. This award recognizes a scientist working in the field of bioelectrics who, during the previous five years, has achieved a pioneering research success, a specific high impact accomplishment, or has made significant scientific contributions to the fields of electrical effects on cells and tissue. The first recipient was Karl H. Schoenbach, who was given the award at the 2010 Bioelectrics Symposium in Norfolk. The second winner of the award was Hidenori Akiyama, who received it at the 2011 Bioelectrics Symposium in Toulouse, France. The third recipient was Justin Teissie. He received the award at the 2012 Symposium in Kumamoto, Japan. A photograph taken after the Kumamoto Conference, at an excursion to Mount Aso, shows the first three award winners (from left to right: Hidenori Akiyama, Justin Teissie, and Karl H. Schoenbach).