BioEM2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece: 310 Attendees from 37 Countries

 “Real science depends for its progress on continual challenges to the current state of always-imperfect knowledge.”

Daniel Sarewitz in “The voice of science: let's agree to disagree”


Editor’s note: The newsletter strives to maintain an archival record of activities related to The Bioelectromagnetics Society, while carefully avoiding the actual reporting of scientific results (including re-reporting presentations from the Annual Meeting). There are two strong reasons for this: first, it is the role of the BEMS journal to report peer reviewed scientific results, and second, the material presented at meetings is typically not yet peer reviewed, and is the property of the author(s), who are responsible for the content. In this summary, we focus on the highlights of the meeting. However one topic gained much discussion during the week. As noted below, there are several peer reviewed articles previously published in well-regarded journals related to this discussion topic. We reference them, and other readily available sources, for readers who wish to gain more knowledge about the particular scientific content of the debate.


Monday June 10, 2013

The Opening Ceremony brought the presidents of the cosponsoring societies (David Black of BEMS and Lluis Mir of EBEA) to the podium, along with Local Organizing Chair Theodoros Samaras, to introduce Prof. Sofia Kouidou-Andreou, Faculty of Medicine and Vice Rector of Research, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and Konstantinos Zervas, Vice-Mayor of Thessaloniki, whose remarks opened the meeting. Professor Kouidou-Andreou’s background in epigenetics and molecular biology and the Vice-Mayor’s environmental interests seemed appropriate for the conference, and were mirrored by the summation presentations given at end of the conference.




Tuesday, June 11. 2013

The social event, always a highlight of each meeting, was held at the POLIS Convention Center, overlooking Thessaloniki from the hills above the city. Inside the banquet area, Greek dancers performed a traditional dance from the Boules of Naousa. The dance celebrates the ritual of becoming an adult, and incorporates elements from Greek history, tradition, and religion.


 After thanking the meeting sponsors (Mobile Manufacturers Forum, Electric Power Research Institute, GSMA, the Greek Mobile Operators Associate (EEKT), ZonMw, IGEA Clinical Biophysics, the Foundation for Research on Information Technologies in Society (IT’IS), the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and Lawson Health Research Institute), and enjoying a fine Greek meal, the dancing seemed to continue all evening.



Wednesday, June 12. 2013

On both Monday and Wednesday, the poster sessions began with flash platform presentations by all students in the session. This provided attendees with a quick overview of the poster contents, while providing each student with time at the podium to bring their topic to a larger audience. In general, the new approach was well received, but some attendees expressed a wish for more time with the posters.


Wednesday’s agenda filled only half the day, allowing time for more discussion and unstructured interaction between meeting attendees. No doubt more than a few discussions focused on the work of Boris Pasche, reported in the first plenary session of the meeting, and in two additional platform presentations. For those unfamiliar with this work, the following citations may be useful:




Peer reviewed journal articles:

• J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Apr 14;28:51.

• British Journal of Cancer (August 2011) 105, 640-648.

• British Journal of Cancer (January 2012) 106, 241-242.

• British Journal of Cancer (January 2012) 106, 307–313.




A recent blog on the topic captures many of the issues raised at the meeting, including concerns about the frequency specificity of the approach:


Blog link:


To paraphrase the blog’s author, Pasche’s work may initially look like a placebo machine, but placebos don’t produce complete or partial responses to otherwise untreatable cancer. And as Pasche noted during the conference, the work is moving towards Phase III clinical trials.


Additional meeting discussions echoed earlier discussions within BEMS regarding whether the mechanism of interaction might involve strictly energy transfer (e.g. heating) or electromagnetic signals that are meaningful to the particular biological structures. One participant noted that looking broadly at the electromagnetic spectrum, the more energy intensive biological interactions tend to come at the higher frequencies, while there are numerous well known frequency specific biological responses at the lower end of the spectrum that clearly don’t involve heating, such as seeing and hearing.



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday’s highlight, outside of the presentations, was the BEMS Annual Business Meeting, where the metaphorical gavel was transferred from David Black to incoming President Richard Nuccitelli (the real gavel is expected to be found soon). Retiring board members Jonna Wilen and Phil Chadwick were honored for their service.


The award presented each year for the most Influential paper by citation was presented to Andrei G. Pakhomov, Juergen F. Kolb, Jody A. White, Ravindra P. Joshi, Shu Xiao, and Karl H. Schoenbach (all authors from Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA USA) for their paper:


Long-lasting plasma membrane permeabilization in mammalian cells by nanosecond pulsed electric field (nsPEF). Bioelectromagnetics, Vol. 28, Issue 8, December 2007. pages 655-663.


Additional discussion at the meeting concerned two proposed changes to the BEMS Constitution, which will be voted upon electronically by members in August 2013. One of these proposes further changes to the board compostion and roles of board members (beyond those approved by members in earlier voting), and the other proposes changes to the way the Technical Program Committee is composed, and puts this into the Constitution for the first time (to now, the Technical Program Committee composition has been developed ad hoc by the Technical Program Chair, who was historically the newly elected Vice President, but in recent years has typically been appointed by the board).  Discussion during the Annual Business Meeting resulted in a change in wording for the second proposal from what was originally submitted.  The revised text will be in a ballot that will be sent soon to voting members of BEMS.



Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday’s session featured, in addition to the hot topic discussion of the recent European Directive on Occupational EMF Exposure, the presentation of The Bioelectromagnetic Society’s most prestigious award, the d’Arsonval Award, to Dr. Frank Prato (see forthcoming August/September 2013 newsletter for more details), and the presentation of awards to students for best poster and platform presentations.


Presidents Lluis Mir (EBEA) and Richard Nuccitelli (BEMS) concluded the meeting with a goal of continuing mutual support and cooperation for the next joint meeting in South Africa.


After the meeting, several attendees expressed appreciation for the summaries provided by designated rapporteurs, but noted concern about comments made about particular presentations. Attendees noted that criteria for talks should be made explicit prior to the meeting, not retrospectively.