NEW YORK CITY (October 12, 2010) In an expansion of its ongoing effort to promote the next generation of stem cell scientists, The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) today named the first six NYSCF Investigators. Each of the NYSCF-Robertson and NYSCF-Helmsley Investigators will receive up to $1.5 million over the next five years to expand their own laboratories, train other scientists and foster innovative high-risk/high reward research to explore the therapeutic potential of stem cells derived from humans and model organisms.
The announcement was made by Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF CEO, at its Fifth Annual Translational Stem Cell Research Conference at The Rockefeller University. She noted that The NYSCF Investigator Program builds on NYSCF's Postdoctoral Fellowship program that has provided funding to 23 stem cell researchers. The goal is to expand the NYSCF Investigator Program that will presently award 19 Investigators over the first five years, thanks to grants from the Robertson Foundation and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Ms. Solomon was accompanied by The NYSCF Investigator Program's four-member selection committee, including its chair Douglas A. Melton, PhD, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute; Dr. Irving Weissman, MD, Director of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine; Dr. Christine Mummery, PhD, Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Embryology at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and Dr. Lorenz Studer, MD, Director of the Sloan-Kettering Center for Stem Cell Biology.
"We are delighted to welcome the new NYSCF-Robertson and NYSCF-Helmsley Investigators. These young scientists represent some of the world's most gifted minds," said Ms. Solomon. "This funding will support them at a critical juncture in their careers as they focus research that has the potential to accelerate the path from bench to bedside.
"The current uncertainty surrounding federal funding of stem cell research has placed many scientists in a tenuous position," she continued. "During this time, The NYSCF Investigator Program provides critical funding to transform the field of stem cell research and find cures that have eluded scientists for decades. We are committed to making sure that stem cell researchers in the United States can pursue their work, unhindered by politics, for as long as it will take to find cures for the diseases that afflict those we love."
According to Ms. Solomon, the NYSCF Investigators were selected on the basis of a research proposal, research accomplishments, and references. Applicants were required to show true innovation for translation of basic science to a clinical setting.
NYSCF named four NYSCF-Robertson Investigators and two NYSCF-Helmsley Investigators, each of whom will receive up to $1.5 million over five years to create labs and cultivate research that will explore the potential of stem cells to advance the understanding and treatment of human disease. The NYSCF Robertson Investigators are:
- Shuibing Chen, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, where she is interested in manipulating stem cell fate, including self-renewal, differentiation and reprogramming, using chemical approaches. Dr. Chen plans to combine her knowledge of stem cell and chemical biology to build functional tissues or organs that can be used for replacement therapy and disease modeling of degenerative diseases such as diabetes. Dr. Chen received her BS and MS in Chemistry from Tsinghua University in China. She pursued her PhD under the advisement of Dr. Peter G. Schultz at the Scripps Research Institute. After graduation, she joined Dr. Melton's laboratory at Harvard to study the directed differnetiation of human embryonic stem cells toward pancreatic lineage.
- Derrick Rossi, PhD, heads his own lab at the Immune Disease Institute at Harvard Medical School, where he leads a small group of researchers who focus on hematopoietic stem cell biology mechanisms that regulate self-renewal and multi-potency, as well as reprogramming the cellular identity of a number of cell types to pluripotency or into clinically useful cell types. Dr. Rossi began his career at the Mount Sinai Research Institute at the University of Toronto, and did postgraduate work with Dr. Weissman at Stanford University. His work has been published in numerous scientific journals, including Nature, Science, PNAS, and Cell Stem Cell.
- Paul Tesar, PhD is a faculty member in the Department of Genetics at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine; a member of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, where he serves as director of the Pluripotent Stem Cell Facility; and is an adjunct in the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Lerner Research Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Tesar's research focuses on the use of adult and embryonic stem cells to understand and treat human disease. The Tesar lab is primarily interested in the molecular mechanisms by which cells acquire specific identities during development and maintain those identities as adults. Dr. Teslar graduated with a BS degree in biology from Case Western and earned his doctorate from the University of Oxford, where he received the NIH Oxford Biomedical Research Scholarship. He continued his postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health. His graduate and postdoctoral studies under Sir Richard Gardner and Dr. Ron McKay led to his discovery of epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs). Dr. Tesar is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Harold M. Weintraub Award of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Beddington Medal of the British Society for Developmental Biology.
- Marius Wernig, MD, PhD, recently joined the faculty of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Department of Pathology at Stanford University where his lab is working on the epigenetic regulation of stem and somatic cells. The lab recently isolated defined factors that induce the direct conversion of skin fibroblasts into functional neurons. Dr. Wernig, a native of Innsbruck, Austria, studied medicine at the University of Vienna after a successful career as a composer. After clinical studies at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, he joined the lab of Dr. Rudi Balling where he completed his PhD. After a residency program in neuropathology at the University of Bonn under Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler, he joined the lab of Dr. Oliver Brustle, where he worked on neural differentiation of embryonic stem cells. For his postdoctoral training, he worked in the lab of Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute at MIT, where he spearheaded one of the few research groups worldwide to successfully create pluripotent stem cells from mouse skin cells.
The NYSCF-Helmsley Investigators are:
- Darja Marolt, PhD, is currently completing her postdoctoral studies at Columbia University in the lab of Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic. She received her PhD from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Since then, she has been developing tissue engineering approaches to regenerate bone, working at the Blood Transfusion Center of Solvenia and the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology before coming to Columbia. Dr. Marolt has co- authored almost a dozen research papers for numerous scientific journals.
- Valentina Fosatti, PhD, received her doctorate at the University of Bologna, and joined the lab of Dr. Hans Snoeck at the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine while she was still a PhD candidate. As a postdoctoral fellow, she focused on the generation of thymic cells from embryonic stem cells for the treatment of autoimmune disease. Dr. Fosatti was named a NYSCF-Stanley and Fiona Druckenmiller Fellow in 2009.
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