The beginnings of the Argentine Society for Neurochemistry (SAN)

The Argentine Society for Neurochemistry (Argentine acronym: SAN), predecessor of the current Argentine Society for Neuroscience, was founded on November 6, 1986. Dr. Ranwel Caputto, the first Argentine biochemist who recognized the vast relevance of Neurochemistry in Argentina, together with Dr. Georgina Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz and Dr. Juana M. Pasquini are the SAN’s “founding heart”. Dr. Pasquini remembers that Dr. De Robertis´ participation in the initial conversations prior to the SAN’s foundation crowned the plan of creating it. Together with other colleagues, Drs. Caputto, Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz and Pasquini agreed on creating a scientific society with the purpose of joining local researchers in activities related to the study of the chemistry of the nervous system. They asked the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba for permission to use Vaquerías Complex’s facilities (in Valle Hermoso, Córdoba province, Argentina) to hold the 1st National Meeting of Neurochemistry. The latter appeared to be the ideal scenario to present the proposal of creating a scientific society and organizing a meeting. The 1st National Meeting of Neurochemistry was held from November 5 to 7 in 1986, with an attendance worth noting. A total of 81 participants attended the meeting, Dr. R. Caputto gave a lecture, and 59 free communications were presented.

Thanks to interviews with three researchers of the SAN’s founding group, namely Drs. Georgina Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz, Juana Pasquini and Hugo Maccioni, it has been possible to have precise details on the SAN’s foundation. Dr. Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz claims that, before talking about the SAN’s early years, it is first necessary to evoke the research context of the 1960s and 1970s, during which the scientific meetings on Biology or Physiology were the right environment to present and discuss papers.
By the end of the 70s, -she remembers- there had already emerged a context specifically centered on Biochemistry or Pharmacology through the annual meetings of the Argentine Society for Biochemical Research (Argentine acronym: SAIB) or the Argentine Society of Experimental Pharmacology (Argentine acronym: SAFE). At that time, the abstracts submitted were grouped -in general- under different topics together with papers from other laboratories, and only in very few cases, were they grouped under the heading of “Neurochemistry”.

“The need to have a space of our own, outside the limits of the SAIB, arose from the necessity of discussing the biochemistry of the nervous system more broadly”, said Dr. Maccioni. At that time, it was thought that to generate a meeting whose guests were scientists working on research related to chemical, biochemical and functional aspects of the nervous system would be of great interest. One of the main points under discussion was whether the scope of the investigations to present had to be either straightforwardly related to the fields of Neurochemistry or generalized within the vast field of Neuroscience. “We made it clear that the Society was going to be open to other branches of Neuroscience instead of being exclusively centered on Neurochemistry”, asserted Dr. Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz. However, the name of the Society was due to Dr. Caputto’s decision because -in his opinion- those who were creating the SAN were neurochemists whereas Neuroscience was a broader field. Dr. Caputto was afraid that some neuroscientists would not feel involved as part of the SAN. On the other hand, Dr. Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz remembers that there was already another Society of Neuroscience in Argentina, whose nature was mainly centered on neurological medical issues.

Details of the SAN's First Meeting:

At the SAN’s founding meeting, the following principles and mission were agreed upon:

  • To study the problems of Neurochemistry.
  • To promote the development of Neurochemistry in the territory of Argentina.
  • To promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge in the area of Neurochemistry.
  • To strengthen relationships among professionals working on Neurochemistry.
  • To facilitate the presentation and discussion of scientific papers in the field.
  • To organize courses.

The SAN’s founding document was signed by Drs. Ranwel Caputto, Georgina Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz, Juana Pasquini, Eduardo Soto, Hugo Maccioni, Amanda Pellegrino de Iraldi, Víctor Idoyaga Vargas, and Jorge Medina, among others. The members of what would be the Executive Committee for the 1986-1987 period were subsequently elected, and those who obtained the highest number of votes, namely: Drs. Ranwel Caputto, Georgina Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz, Juana M. Pasquini, Francisco J. Barrantes, Víctor Idoyaga Vargas, German A. Roth, and Ricardo O. Duffard became its members. This Committee convened the II SAN National Meeting which took place in Vaquerías, in Valle Hermoso, Córdoba province, on October 25-27, 1987. Its Organizing Committee was composed of Drs. R. Caputto, G. Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz, J.M. Pasquini, G.A. Roth, V. Idoyaga Vargas, and M.E. Hallak. There were 80 participants. Drs. Eduardo De Robertis (from Buenos Aires city, Argentina), Francisco Barrantes (from Bahía Blanca city, Argentina) and Nibaldo Inestrosa (from Santiago city, Chile) gave lectures and a total of 46 free communications were presented.

During the II SAN Annual Meeting, the draft Bylaws prepared by the Executive Committee was submitted for consideration and approval, unofficial proposals for holding joint meetings with other Societies were evaluated, possible venues for the following 2 or 3 years were discussed, and SAN authorities were elected. Thereafter, the first Executive Committee was officially constituted for the 1987-1989 period, as follows:

First Executive Committee

from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Vice President
from Universidad de Buenos Aires

from Instituto de Investigaciones Bioquímicas de Bahía Blanca, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas–Universidad Nacional del Sur

from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Since its inception, the SAN has had two international peers: the International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), founded in 1965, and the American Society for Neurochemistry (ASN), founded in 1969, both of which have been holding biannual and annual meetings since their foundation. Dr. Pasquini highlighted that there had been no conversations with these societies prior to the creation of the SAN. The conversations did take place, after the SAN’s foundation, either with foreign scientists or Argentine researchers living abroad who were very much interested in participating in the SAN’s meetings and in deepening contacts. This gave rise to the list of outstanding foreign lecturers who have participated -since the SAN’s inception- in all its annual meetings. In parallel, Dr. Rodríguez de Lores Arnaiz stated that the link with international societies has been translated into a reward for Argentine fellows on account of the fact that those who present their results at the ASN’s annual meetings could receive financial support to cover their registration, travel and accommodation expenses. It has also been agreed that, at the end of the meeting, they could spend a short stay in a laboratory in the region. Therefore, thanks to the SAN-ASN relationship, a good number of Argentine fellows have been awarded financial support for their postdoctoral training. In line with this, in 2002, the Committee for Aid for Neurochemistry (CAEN) program of the ISN created the “CAEN award” to provide financial aid to researchers working in Neurochemistry. Dr. Pasquini remembers that, during Dr. Eduardo Soto’s SAN presidency, a proposal was made to the ASN to hold joint symposia with two Argentine researchers and two North American researchers. One of these symposia, which was held in Chicago in 2000 under the coordination of Drs. Mario Guido and Diego Golombek from the SAN, was attended by Nobel Laureate Dr. Aziz Sancar.
Then, the ASN created the Young Latin American Scholars (YLAS) Award, which was always chaired by Latin Americans, among them Drs. Araceli Espinosa de los Monteros (from México), Oscar Bizzozero (from Argentina), Arturo Ortega (from México), and Juana Pasquini (from Argentina). The YLAS committee, which is composed of ASN members from Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay, awards a U$D 2000 fellowship to attend the ASN meeting and a stay in a laboratory belonging to an ASN member. In addition, ASN Neuro, the ASN journal, is always incorporating researchers from Latin America, particularly from Argentina, in its Editorial Committee. The ASN Neuro also offers reduced publication fees for Latin American scientists.

Due to the importance of Neurochemistry in Latin America, the ISN and the ASN decided to hold their biennial meetings outside Europe and the USA. La Guaira, in Venezuela, was the first venue. For the second meeting in Latin America, the Local Organizing Committee of the XVIII ISN Meeting was created jointly with the Organizing Committee of the XXXII ASN Meeting, with the participation of SAN members, such as Drs. Juana Pasquini, Eduardo Soto, Marta Hallak, Ana Adamo and Marta Antonelli -among others-. The XVIII ISN Meeting was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 26-31, 2001. As time went by, a growing list of speakers and attendees from different Argentine research institutes joined SAN local meetings. Dr. Pasquini remembers that the research topics to discuss started to be more numerous and varied, such as those focused on myelin biochemistry (as shown in Pasquini, Soto et al.’s studies, Buenos Aires), fatty acid biochemistry (as shown in Bazán et al.’s studies, Bahía Blanca; and Brenner et al.’s studies, La Plata), glycolipid biochemistry (as shown in Caputto et al.’s studies, Córdoba), subcellular fractionation and receptors (as shown in De Robertis et al.’s studies, Buenos Aires), and incipiently emerging topics on cellular neurobiology (as shown in Cáceres, Maccioni et al.’s studies in Córdoba) which gradually gained their place in the SAN.

The following further joint meetings were held with other Societies:

  • 2001XVIII Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry and XXXII International Meeting of the American Society for Neurochemistry, Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 26-31. Abstracts were published in the J. Neurochem. (2001) 78 (Suppl. 1).
  • 2004: I Congreso Conjunto de Sociedades Biomédicas SAIC – SAI – SAFE – SAN– SABiología – SABiofísica – SAF [I Joint Meeting of Biomedical Societies], Mar del Plata, Argentina, November 16-20.
  • 2005: X Congreso de la Asociación Panamericana de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular [X Meeting of the Pan-American Association for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology], XLI Reunión Anual de la Sociedad Argentina de Investigación en Bioquímica y Biología Molecular [XLI Annual Meeting of the Argentine Society for Research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology], XX Reunión Anual de la Sociedad Argentina de Neuroquímica [XX Annual Meeting of the Argentine Society for Neurochemistry], Pinamar, Argentina, December 3-6.
  • 2016: II Congreso de la Federación de Sociedades Latinoamericanas y del Caribe de Neurociencias (FALAN) [II Congress of the Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Neuroscience Societies], Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 17-20.

Argentine Neuroscience Workshop (1998-2008)

The Argentine Neuroscience Workshop was a unique opportunity for neuroscientists from different parts of Argentina to meet informally on a yearly basis to discuss the latest developments in their research studies. The idea of a Workshop arose from an informal conversation among researchers in 1998 and the first annual meeting of the Argentine Neuroscience Workshop took place in Córdoba city in 1999. It was organized by Dr. Daniel Calvo from the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular “Dr. Héctor N. Torres” and by Dr. Santiago Quiroga from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. This first meeting, which gathered 118 attendees and in which 40 posters were presented informally, was the first step in the organization of an initiative to which several researchers joined immediately to present and discuss the results derived from their studies. Between 1999 and 2008, the Argentine Neuroscience Workshop organized annual meetings that were translated into an innovative dynamics for the local neuroscientific community, its main characteristics being: i) an isolated, physical, and economically accessible space for researchers and students, ii) active participation of students and young researchers, iii) relaxed and informal atmosphere to encourage discussions, and iv) intense schedule of activities. This critical and vigorous atmosphere, which characterized the first Workshop, continues being the driving force for the subsequent annual meetings on Argentine Neuroscience.

The SAN today: Fusion between the SAN and the Argentine Neuroscience Workshop

General consensus to modify the SAN’s statutory bylaws in force as well as to change the SAN’s name was reached at the SAN’s annual ordinary assembly held at Hotel de Gastronómicos in Los Cocos, Córdoba province, under the presidency of Dr. Marta Hallak (2001-2003) together with Drs. Francisco Barrantes (outgoing President), Osvaldo Uchitel (Vice President), Mario E. Guido (Secretary), Graciela Borioli (Treasurer) and the Members Diego Golombek, Marta Lapid de Volosin, and Alicia Seltzer.

During the presidency of Osvaldo Uchitel (2003-2005), the SAN’s statutory bylaws was modified to allow the participation of young researchers in the SAN’s decision-making processes. SAN’s name was also changed to Sociedad Argentina de Investigación en Neurociencias [Argentine Society for Neuroscience] keeping the acronym “SAN”. This new name broadened the spectrum of disciplines represented by the SAN.

On the other hand, in order to integrate the whole regional neuroscientific community, in 2009 and 2010 both the Argentine Neuroscience Workshop and the SAN began to organize joint annual meetings in which the original format of the Workshop was maintained, taking advantage ―in parallel— of the institutional potential of the SAN. Such a fusion has helped since then not only to combine but also to potentiate the capacities of the Argentine neuroscientific community, whose members are currently nucleated under the SAN’s umbrella and organize a single annual meeting on Neuroscience.

Throughout the years, the SAN’s executive committees have paid tribute to outstanding neuroscience researchers after their death, such as Drs. Ranwel Caputto, Eduardo De Robertis and Héctor Maldonado. The three Plenary Lectures scheduled at each annual meeting therefore bear the name of these outstanding researchers.

The Argentine Society for Neuroscience

At present, the SAN holds annual meetings, generally in October. They are ruled by the principles of federal representation, gender parity and scientific excellence. In these meetings, priority is given to the presentation of Plenary Lectures, Symposia organized by SAN members, Young Researchers’ Talks, Oral Communications and Posters.

The SAN has made strong links with the Society for Neurochemistry (SfN). One of such links is through an SfN chapter, called “Buenos Aires, Argentina Chapter”, that was created during Dr. Cecilia Bouzat’s SAN presidency. This chapter represents Neuroscience in Argentina. The SAN has also received constant institutional support from official national, provincial and local and private organizations, and above all, from the Company of Biologists (COB), the ISN and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO).

Thanks to IBRO’s intervention with the participation of SAN, IBRO LARC and other Latin American societies, and after a first meeting held in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 2008, the Federation of Neuroscience Societies of Latin America and the Caribbean (FALAN) began to take shape. The first FALAN congresses were: Neurolatam held in Buzios (Brazil) in 2008; FALAN Congress held in Cancun (México) in November, 2012, and considered the first FALAN Congress; and FALAN Congress held in Buenos Aires in 2016. In 2015, SAN 30th anniversary was celebrated with a meeting held in Mar del Plata under the presidency of Dr. Belén Elghoyen. In 2018, during the presidency of Dr. Mario Guido, the SAN annual meeting was held for the first time in the Pabellón Argentina of the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba commemorating the 100 years of the university reform process.

During the presidency of Dr. Liliana Cancela (2019-2021), the following five Advisory Committees were incorporated to SAN’s structure with the purpose of bringing SAN members closer to the Executive Committee.

SAN Monthly Conference Committee

This committee takes care of the organization and coordination of monthly virtual lectures for the scientific community.

SAN Education Committee

This committee takes care of the organization of courses, workshops, and conferences on educational topics related to SAN’s disciplines.

SAN Liaison and Communication Committee

This committee takes care of the SAN’s social network, web site management, etc. It also takes care of developing efficient communication channels among SAN members, and facilitates the tools that the other committees need to reach the community.

SAN Scientific Outreach Committee

This Committee takes care of organizing outreach activities and coordinates The Brain Week, among other outreach events prepared for non-specialists.

SAN History Committee

This committee is in charge of compiling SAN’s history by interviewing well-known scientists and by providing graphic material.

In 2022, during the presidency of Dr. Marta Antonelli, the following three special committees were created in response to proposals from SAN members:

SAN Gender and Diversity Committee

Based on the importance of i) paying particular attention to gender and diversity policies, ii) considering such policies in a broad and comprehensive sense, and iii) assuming that discrimination does not solely fall on gender grounds, the aims of this committee are to: promote equality and equity in the SAN, provide advice to the SAN Executive Committee and to the other working committees on the activities they carry out, organize activities and propose institutional policies for the promotion of a more inclusive and diverse society, and carry out monitoring and assessment surveys on the most important gender issues for the community.

SAN Scientific Policy Committee

In view of the situation to which the scientific system, in general, and the Neuroscience areas, in particular, are confronted in Argentina, it is imperative to create discussion forums and design proposals to grasp this situation objectively. This committee therefore proposes to coordinate meetings with influential representatives of the science policy sector to: analyze the current situation of the Argentine scientific system, delineate future perspectives, and generate concrete proposals. This committee will represent and safeguard the interests of the SAN before the officers that are influential in developing scientific policies.

SAN Federalization Committee

More than 95% of the members of the SAN Executive Committee and Special Committees and 91% of SAN active members come from the Buenos Aires-Córdoba-Bahía Blanca nucleus. Taking into account the growing expansion of Neuroscience groups in other parts of Argentina, the purposes of this Committee are to: promote a larger representation of their members within the SAN, encourage the discussion of regional problems in particular, and raise the participation and visibility of colleagues from less visible localities in the activities of the SAN.