Stem Cell Person of the Year winner announced

The votes are in, the decision has been made. UC Davis stem cell researcher, CIRM grantee and avid blogger Dr. Paul Knoepfler has named the winner of his Stem Cell Person of the Year award. And for the second year in a row it’s not me.

This year the winner is Dr. Elena Cattaneo the Director and Co-Founder of the Unistem, the Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Milano, Italy. Her lab specializes in working with brain cells to help develop new therapies for Huntington’s disease.

Paul announced the news on his blog saying:

“Beyond her great achievements in stem cell science, she is that rare stem cell scientist who goes well above and beyond the call of academic duty to act as an advocate as well.”

Dr. Cattaneo does not shy away from controversy. Earlier this year she took a very public stand against a new Italian law that would have allowed patients to get access to new and unproven stem cell therapies (we blogged about that law here). She decried the law saying:

“Irrational and unverified stem cell treatments based on methods that are not validated or scientifically documented should not reach patients. Preventing this from happening is a specific responsibility of health authorities and governments worldwide to make sure that the hope and trust of patients are not misused. Patients can be harmed and killed by medicines that have not been proven to be safe and effective via rigorously controlled clinical trials. The use of medicines that have not been manufactured to the highest possible standards is irresponsible.”

Cattaneo beat out a dozen other well known individuals – including Robert Lanza of ACT, Pope Francis and the stem cell agency’s own Dr. Pat Olson – to win the award.

Her prize is $1,000 and the recognition that comes with the award as someone who has made a positive impact on stem cell research.

Not only is she a fine researcher, she is also a generous person. She told Paul Knoepfler she intends to use the money to support a trainee scholarship to a future stem cell conference.

Congratulations to Dr. Cattaneo, and to Paul Knoepfler for another inspired choice.

And he assures us it’s not just an excuse to go to Italy to award the prize in person.

Kevin McCormack

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