In a very hot summer as Neurodiab Chairman I laboured to produce a draft of the bye-laws, which was approved with minor changes by the Executive Committee and sent to the EASD for approval. The name (Neurodiab – Diabetic Neuropathy Study Group of EASD) and various drafts of the logo were suggested by my co-worker Luigi Uccioli. I submitted the name and the chosen logo to the Executive Committee. The Neurodiab study group was then approved by the EASD.
The first official meeting was in Cork 9-10 September 1991 at the Silver Springs Hotel. There were 100 participants and the meeting was very lively and successful. Among the participants I remember P.K. Thomas and David Tomlinson from London, Jean-Raymond Attali and Paul Valensi form Paris, Andrew Boulton from Manchester, Norman Cameron and Mary Cotter from Aberdeen, Solomon Tesfaye from Sheffield, Aristides Veves and Rayaz Malik from Manchester, Bernhard Neundörfer from Nürnberg, Dan Ziegler from Düsseldorf, Peter Kempler from Budapest, Göran Sundkvist from Malmö, Jonescu Tirgoviste from Bucharest, Boris Mankovski from Kiev, Anders Sima from Michigan, Nicola Canal and Luigi Comi from Milan, Vincenza Spallone and Luigi Uccioli from Rome, Domenico Fedele and Federico Bellavere from Padua and Luciano Bernardi from Pavia.
In this first meeting I insisted that the discussion times should be equal to the times of presentations in order to ensure a lively interchange and encourage the younger members to join in. This rule was approved by the Executive Committee and observed in all subsequent meetings, contributing to the success of the Study Group.
It was also decided that members of Neurodiab and presenting authors should receive free registration and accommodation from the organizing committee; this encouraged younger members and those from less affluent countries to participate.
The subsequent meeting was held in Bratislava in order to favour attendance from Eastern European Countries; there were in fact presentations from the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Also we had Nigishi Hotta from Japan and a gradually increasing attendance from the USA. The latter was subsequently to become very significant as the lack of a neuropathy study group in the American Diabetes Association made Neurodiab a sort of regular meeting for neuropathy researchers from the US.
An interesting episode occurred when the bus from Prague to Bratislava passed the town of Brno, and I noticed that we were near the notorious prison of Spielberg. All members from the East and Italy appeared well acquainted with it, while it had no echo in the western countries like France or England. The Spielberg was in fact a sort of university for all patriots of the different nationalities of the Austrian Empire.
The third meeting under my chairmanship was held in Istanbul and was a cause of considerable anxiety for the Executive Committee, and me, because during the organization of the meeting the pharmaceutical firm, which had agreed to be the chief supporter, suddenly collapsed. We had previously decided to have a rotation of pharmaceutical firms as main sponsors of the meetings, so as to ensure a maximum of independence, the firm in question (Fidia) would have come in rotation from the previous one Pfizer. During the spring of 1993 we had to find quickly a substitute, as many arrangements and economical engagements had already been take. Fortunately Pfizer was asked to come in and very generously supported us.
The meeting was held in a beautiful site, the Tarabya Hotel where from our rooms we could admire the ships coming through the Bosporus. The social evening – thanks to the generous cooperation of the Italian Ambassador and Consul – was held in the Italian Consulate, Palazzo Venezia, originally the Venetian Embassy to the Sultan of Istanbul.
For some organizational reason I was asked to chair Neurodiab until the meeting in Düsseldorf where I left the chairmanship in the very prestigious and efficient hands of Arnold Gries while I was elected Secretary and so continued to have a full involvement in the running of the Group, always helped by the very dedicated work of my co-worker Vincenza Spallone.
On leaving the chair I was happy to leave a very lively scientific group, with a solid structure and a particularly open and friendly atmosphere. For all this I was most grateful to the Executive Committee within which we had a most satisfactory cooperation through all the most rewarding, if occasionally difficult, years, and especially to the constant lucid, support and encouragement of John Ward, the very friendly and illuminating cooperation of Peter Watkins, Janik Hilsted, and the solid authority of Arnold Gries (a curious note in the composition of the Executive Committee was the presence of two English catholics, one Danish catholic, one Italian catholic and a German lutheran).
There was some discussion on whether to have a Neurodiab meeting in 1994 as the third International Meeting on Neuropathy was to be held in Japan in 1994. I strongly insisted the Neurodiab meeting should be held, both because many people would not be able to go to Japan and because our members expected it and should not be discouraged in their allegiance. The proposal was accepted by the Executive Committee.
The fourth meeting was thus held in Düsseldorf, perfectly organized by Arnold Gries and Dan Ziegler and was very well attended and a great success. The four lectures of the meeting were published as a Mini-Symposium in the journal Diabetic Medicine, through the offices of Andrew Boulton then Editor of the Journal.
The status of Neurodiab was increasing and we were asked to produce a State of the Art Symposium for the EASD Meeting in Düsseldorf in 1994. The main lines were discussed at the Istanbul EASD meeting by myself with Arnold Gries and Michael Berger of the EASD Organizing Committee. The Symposium included after my introduction, presentations by David Tomlinson on the biochemical pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy, by Dan Ziegler on diagnosis, staging and epidemiology, by me and Simona Frontoni on the symptomatic treatment of autonomic neuropathy, by P.K. Thomas on painful diabetic neuropathy, and a round table on diabetic neuropathy treatment with John Ward, K.F. Hansen, H.M.J. Krans, and Solomon Tesfaye. The Symposium was very well received, to the satisfaction of the EASD. The Editor of Diabetes Nutrition and Metabolism, the official journal of the Italian Society of Diabetology, accepted to publish the Symposium in full.
The fifth meeting was held in Stockholm in 1995, organized locally by Göran Sundkvist, always a very active and friendly Neurodiab member, in a very pleasant location in a thermal hotel in Salstjobaden. The meeting was introduced by a lecture by Peter Watkins on autoimmunity of diabetic neuropathy and featured an ample Symposium on nerve regeneration. It proved a particularly agreeable and successful meeting.
The sixth Neurodiab meeting was held in Baden near Vienna with an increasing number of papers from the US and a large presence of eastern Europeans. On the suggestion of John Ward, who had heard from Peter Watkins of a Symposium in London of non diabetologist scientists on pain, we organized a Mini Symposium on pain chaired by P.K. Thomas and delivered by S.P. Hunt from Cambridge, C. Stucky from Wurtzburg, and D. Yarnitsky from Boston.
The seventh Neurodiab was held in conjunction with the 4th International Meeting on Neuropathy in Noordwijkerhout (The Netherlands). Neurodiab was very amply represented both in the Organizing and the Scientific Committees, being the Chairman of Neurodiab, David Tomlinson, also the Chairman of the Scientific Committee.
The eight Neurodiab meeting was held in Sitges near Barcelona. I was asked to keep the role of Secretary for a further year, and so I was engaged in the meeting organization. This was opened by a Mini-Symposium on the evaluation of reinnervation given by J. Jacobsen from Aarhus, Vera Bril from Toronto, and Henning Andersen from Aarhus.
With this Meeting I concluded my 8 years engagement in the founding and running of Neurodiab, with a feeling of gratitude to all members of the Executive Committees and all members of this brilliant scientific group. I feel now a great sense of achievement, seeing how active and flourishing Neurodiab is in its 25th year and how the atmosphere of friendly cooperation, integrity and dedication to our basic and clinical scientific goals, which we worked for at its founding, is unchanged.
Among the US scientists who were a regular and important presence in Neurodiab there was Peter Dick a sort of father figure probably the highest authority in neuropathy in his country, Aaron Vinik whose imaginative and brilliant contributions animated our discussions, Anders Sima, and Vera Bril from Canada. One should also note the constant significant contributions from Nigishi Hotta from Japan.
In the course of my engagement in Neurodiab I could follow the rise and fall of a number of promising drugs for the pathogenetic treatment of diabetic neuropathy like aldose reductase inhibitors. We would all have liked to see some form of effective pharmacologic treatment of diabetic neuropathy but this was not to be and we leave it to our successors to find it…. perhaps”.