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BD Biosciences Announces Winners of Research Grant Program

SAN JOSE, Calif., Aug. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- BD Biosciences, a segment of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), has announced the latest round of winners of the BD Biosciences Research Grant Program.

"BD Biosciences continues to support promising young U.S. and European scientists at critical junctures of their careers," said Robert Balderas, Vice President of Biological Sciences, BD Biosciences. "No biomedical discovery has shown as much promise, so early in its development, as stem cell research. We are pleased, by funding these researchers, to support efforts to treat and cure serious illnesses."

An independent panel of distinguished scientists selected the winners. Each grant recipient will receive a $10,000 grant of research reagents to help carry out their research.

The winners of the BD Biosciences Research Grant Program for the summer 2011 cycle are:

  • Michael Choi, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is investigating the conversion of non-liver cells into functional hepatocytes through a combination of transcription factors and microRNAs. Specifically, he will identify transcription factors and microRNAs that help convert or differentiate fibroblasts, embryonic stem cells or endodermal (early liver precursor) cells into hepatic progenitor cells. The long-term goal is a ready source of cells to repair livers damaged from injury or disease.

  • Piero Dalerba, M.D., Instructor in Medicine at Stanford University, applies stem cell biology to the study and modeling of human cancer. Using a novel analytical method called single-cell gene expression analysis by polymerase chain reaction, he hopes to deconvolute the cell composition of the human colon epithelium and characterize its different cell populations, with an emphasis on stem cells. These cells are difficult to isolate and investigate because they are rare and usually intermingled with other cells within the colon.  Dr. Dalerba hopes to gain insight into which genes are uniquely expressed by stem cells, which markers can be used to purify them, and which factors control the cells' ability to self-renew and differentiate into more specialized cells.

  • Carla Kim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, investigates lung stem cells. Very little is known about these cells or how to identify them in lung tissue. Dr. Kim plans to co-culture lung stem cells with lung endothelial cells, rather than more conventional cultured embryonic fibroblasts. Endothelial cells are one of the most common cells in the lung, and are believed to provide a more natural environment for expanding lung stem cell populations. Similarly, she expects to culture lung stem cells using fibrogenic/adipogenic progenitor cells, which give rise to lung fibroblasts and perhaps fat cells. Dr. Kim will characterize lung stem cells expanded in this manner. Eventually, these cells may play a role in treating lung diseases.

  • Majlinda Lako, Ph.D., Professor of Stem Cell Science at the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, studies human pluripotent stem cells and their differentiation into retinal photoreceptor and retinal pigmented epithelial cells essential for vision. Prof. Lako's group has developed an efficient culture method for quantitatively transforming human pluripotent stem cells into the three principal retinal cells: rods, cones, and retinal pigmented epithelium. One goal of her research is to grow a fully organized and functional human retina in vitro using embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells. Tissues produced in this manner could serve as disease models, drug screening substrates, and perhaps eventually transplant material.

  • Neil Rodrigues, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Boston University, takes a novel approach to hematopoietic stem cell expansion. Rather than utilizing on conventional growth factors, Dr. Rodrigues employs small molecule compounds that promote stem cell division without differentiation. This approach has several advantages, including relatively low cost and the ability to target specific cell populations. He also investigates small molecule compounds that target leukemic stem cells which can sustain leukemia and cause disease relapse. Ultimately, this work could lead to new strategies that broaden the utility of stem cell therapy beyond traditional blood cancers and promote hematopoietic stem cell engraftment in patients immediately post-transplantation, when they are most prone to infection.

Additional information about the BD Biosciences Grant Program is available at

About the BD Biosciences Research Grant Program

BD Biosciences' Research Grant Program aims to reward and enable important research by providing vital funding for scientists pursuing innovative experiments to advance the scientific understanding of disease. The grant submissions are judged by a distinguished research panel of non-affiliated scientists. Through its grant program, BD Biosciences supports innovation in research and development as well as help enable the next generation of scientific breakthroughs.

About BD

BD is a leading global medical technology company that develops, manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents. The Company is dedicated to improving people's health throughout the world. BD is focused on improving drug delivery, enhancing the quality and speed of diagnosing infectious diseases and cancers, and advancing research, discovery and production of new drugs and vaccines. BD's capabilities are instrumental in combating many of the world's most pressing diseases. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, BD employs approximately 29,000 associates in more than 50 countries throughout the world. The Company serves healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry and the general public. For more information, please visit

Alyssa Zeff
Public Relations
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