Today is Stem Cell Awareness Day, an event that seeks to bring together individuals and organizations around the world working to celebrate and raise awareness about the tremendous progress being made in stem cell research, and to ensure we remain focused on keeping that progress going until we have cures or treatments for people in need.
Today is also the day that our colleague, U.C. Davis stem cell researcher and avid blogger, Paul Knoepfler reveals the nominations for his annual Stem Cell Person of the Year award. It’s perfect timing, because many of those nominated have been pivotal in helping move the research forward, and in helping raise awareness about the field in general.
The rules for the competition are pretty simple. In Paul’s own words: “Who has been the single most important, influential person in the world of stem cells this year? Who has made the biggest positive contribution in 2014?”
This is the third year of the competition and Paul is not just a tireless champion of stem cell research, he’s also someone who puts his money where his mouth is. The prize for this year’s winner is $2,000, double that of the previous two years, and all that cash comes out of Paul’s own pocket. It’s a generous gesture from a tireless advocate. In fact those two qualities alone would suggest Paul qualifies to win his own competition. But he has too much integrity to ever even consider that.
So without further ado here is the list of nominations with quotes from some of the people who nominated them in green.
*Spoiler alert: a couple of those nominated are colleagues of mine here at the stem cell agency. I didn’t nominate them, but I can certainly testify to the fact that they deserve it.
Bernie Siegel – a long-time stem cell advocate who runs the yearly World Stem Cell Summit. “Has any one single person done more for the stem cell field?”
Chris Fasano: A principal investigator at the Neural Stem Cell Institute where he uses stem cells to study early nervous system development. “Chris stands out for his energy, enthusiasm, dedication to the field, creativity and accomplishments.”
Diana DeGette, the Democratic Congresswoman from Colorado: a politician who has been working to pass important stem cell legislation. “Long time supporter of legislation to support stem cell research and regenerative medicine.”
Don Reed: long-time stem cell research advocate who played a key role in the success of Prop 71 and the creation of CIRM. “A tireless stem cell advocate always there to make a positive difference.”
Emmanuel (Ed) Baetge: Head of Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences at Nestlé Health Science and formerly CSO of Novocell/ViaCyte. “Ed was the driving force behind the development of Novocell (Viacyte’s) diabetes program using hESCs to develop a cell therapy for T1/2 patients…the phase 1 trial is enrolling this year. It has huge potential and Ed deserves the credit for his leadership and development of the technology as well as the company.”
Ellen Feigal; Vice President, Research and Development at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). “At CIRM Dr. Feigal makes the Development Program happen.”
Ian mcNiece: Professor, Department of Stem Cell Transplantation, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Janet Rossant: Senior Scientist in the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program and Chief of Research at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
Jeanne Loring: Stem cell researcher and scholar, leading iPS cell clinical work in the pipeline for Parkinson’s Disease, and patient advocate. “Supportive to the advocacy community. Courage in supporting the challenge to WARF patents. Excellent scientist engaged in policy discussions.”
John Sinden: The co-founder of ReNeuron, a biotech company based in UK. “Thanks to his determination, and drive ReNeuron has a clinical approved stem cell product currently tested in two clinical trials.”
Judy Roberson: Long-time Huntington’s Disease patient advocate. “She makes concrete positive developments happen such as millions of dollars in research funding for HD.”
Leigh Turner: Outspoken advocate of evidence-based medicine in the stem cell field. “Gave an inspiringly frank talk about for-profit stem cell clinics flouting FDA regulations at ISSCR 2014.”
Malin Parmer: Associate Professor, Developmental and Regenerative Neurobiology, Lund University. Top neural regeneration scientist. “Young, hard worker who is doing very well”.
Masayo Takahashi: Stem cell researcher leading the team that is doing the first ever clinical study based on human iPS cells. “Creative and courageous clinical stem cell researcher.”
Mike West: He founded Geron and was CSO of Advanced Cell Technology before his current position as head of BioTime. “He has been a leader in our regen field for many years but he made a bold decision to resurrect Geron’s cell therapy for spinal cord injury this year and hopefully confirm the promise of hESC technology clinically.”
Patricia Olson: Executive Director of Scientific Activities at CIRM and active in CIRM scientific leadership from day 1. “A driving force in the stem cell field.”
Peter Zandstra: Professor at University of Toronto. Stem cell researcher. Canada Research Chair of Stem Cell Bioengineering. “Peter is a recognized pioneer and respected world leader at bringing concepts of scale-up, regulation, and industrialization to stem cell-derived cell therapy technologies.”
Pope Francis: Leader of Worldwide Catholic Church. “Strong supporter of adult stem cell biotechs and research”.
Richard Cohen: An MS patient in a clinical trial who has chronicled his experiences. An author and Meredith Vieira’s husband, father of three children. “Mr. Cohen is an inspiration to me and others because he’s very honest and doesn’t sugar-coat his struggles, losses, frustrations, anger, embarrassments, and he also shares his gains.”
Richard Garr: CEO of Neuralstem, conducting work on using stem cells for ALS and advocate of Right To Try laws. “Richard does two excellent things at once: making a treatment for ALS and connecting with ALS patients.”
Robert Lanza: CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, which has multiple ES cell-based clinical trials ongoing. “Visionary and practical so makes the impossible possible”.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov: Stem cell researcher who first successfully made nuclear transfer human ES cells by therapeutic cloning and developing oocyte transfer-based therapies for mitochondrial disorders. “Gutsy pioneer of new, game changing technologies.”
Susan Solomon: Co-Founder and CEO of The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). Remarkably effective advocate for stem cell research. “not many leaders have created their own research laboratories and raised $100 million plus. Seriously, what an accomplishment!”
Takaho Endo: Senior Researcher at the Riken Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Yokohama who published key genetic work on the possible origin of STAP cells. “Courage to publish this being from RIKEN.”
Ted Harada: Leading stem cell research advocate and very effective ALS patient advocate. “An Energizer Bunny for the ALS community and stem cell advocate”
Tory Williams: Stem cell advocate and author of the 2014 book, Inevitable Collision. Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Alabama Institute of Medicine (AIM). “A true hero who inspires and makes concrete things happen like AIM”.