• Member Spotlight on Jiaqian Wu, PhD

    Hometown:
    Beijing, China

    Current Residence:
    Houston, Texas

    Graduate Degree:
    Baylor College of Medicine 

    Postdoc Work:
    Yale University, Stanford University

    Current Positions:
    Principle Investigator/Assistant Professor, 
    The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery 
    Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
    The University of Texas Medical School at Houston




    What is the current focus of your research?


    My laboratory combines stem cell biology and systems-based approaches involving molecular biology, genetics, genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics to unravel gene transcription and regulatory mechanisms governing stem cell differentiation. One major focus of our group is investigating stem cell neural differentiation and developing effective and safe treatment for spinal cord injury and neurological diseases. We are studying gene expression and the regulation of transcription factors and regulatory RNAs using next-generation sequencing technologies including RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq. These studies are crucial in understanding the molecular mechanism of stem cell neural differentiation and its clinical implications. Our goal is to identify and modulate key regulators as therapeutic targets to direct the differentiation of stem cells into neural cells types of our interest more efficiently, and to increase transplantation safety. The other area of our research interest lies in the studies of the regulatory networks of hematopoietic precursor cell self-renewal and differentiation. We are using integrated genomic and proteomic approaches to identify key components that control the switch. This study can provide insight for efficient expanding and manipulating hematopoietic precursor and stem cells. 

    What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?


    My mother is a physicist and my father is a biologist. When I was a child, they often told me stories about great scientists, so I thought this is want I want to be when I grow up. I never regret it for a moment! When I was a postdoc in the laboratory of Michael Snyder, I had an opportunity to take stem cell training courses at WiCell and worked with renowned stem cell scientists such as Haifan Lin. I realized how powerful it would be if stem cell biology is combined with genomics. We urgently need the interdisciplinary approaches in the field of stem cell in order to generate a comprehensive picture of stem cell biology and better steer the direction of differentiation, as well as develop more effective and safer treatments.  

    How do you spend your free time?


    In addition to music, culture and art, I enjoy the great outdoors and nature. When I was a postdoc at Yale, I skied regularly. When I was at Stanford, I enjoyed hiking in the Bay Area. Recently I have picked up surfing. We are only an hour away to the Gulf of Mexico.

    What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?


    When I was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale, I volunteered at a local animal shelter. I used to clean the cages every Friday evening. My work was busy, so I didn’t have any pets at the time. It was fun to play with the animals while I was cleaning. 

    What do you like most about living and working in Houston?


    Houston is a very international city and we have the largest medical center in the world -- the Texas Medical Center (TMC). There are 21 hospitals, eight academic and research institutions, six nursing programs, three public health organizations, three medical schools, two universities, two pharmacy schools, and a dental school in TMC. People are very collaborative at the University of Texas and we have excellent intellectual environment to carry out creative research.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?


    I have been a member of the ISSCR for almost ten years. I won a travel award when I was a postdoc so I could travel to the annual meeting in Barcelona and give an oral presentation about my work. ISSCR administrators and staff members are really helpful. I appreciate the wonderful career development opportunities such as luncheons for Junior Investigators or Early Career Group Leaders to meet the leaders in the field and the ISSCR Board of Directors. Also ISSCR Connect and the newsletters provide the latest development in the stem cell field. I enjoy going to the annual meeting to present our work and to meet my colleagues and old friends in the field.

  • Member Spotlight on Eran Meshorer, PhD

    Hometown:
    Rehovot, Israel

    Current Residence:
    Neve Ilan (outside of Jerusalem), Israel

    Graduate Degree:
    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

    Postdoc Work:
    National Cancer Institute

    Current Positions:
    Principal Investigator/Associate Professor
    Department of Genetics,
    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem




    What is the current focus of your research?


    My lab is studying chromatin and epigenetic regulation in pluripotent stem cells, stem cell differentiation and somatic cell reprogramming. We are combining single cell live imaging studies, allowing us to follow chromatin changes as they occur in living cells, with high-throughput genomic technologies and computation analyses, to depict a system-level understanding of the mechanisms that operate to control pluripotency and unravel the chromatin-related regulation of the stem cell state. In addition, we are using pluripotent cells to model polyglutamine (PolyQ) tract diseases and study chromatin-related defects in the hopes of developing better treatments.

    What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?


    I took biology because I felt it was the most interesting subject to study, but my real passion to science came only during graduate studies several years later, when I did my PhD at the laboratory of Hermona Soreq at the Hebrew University. After I completed my PhD in molecular neuroscience, I was very much attracted to the chromatin field, epigenetic regulation and stem cells. So I decided to switch gears and try and combine chromatin and stem cells in my post-doctoral studies. I really chose stem cells as a model to study chromatin, because I was looking for a system where I could find very conspicuous differences in chromatin between differentiated and undifferentiated cells. I thus joined the lab of Tom Misteli at NIH.

    How do you spend your free time?


    I enjoy mountain biking, cooking (risotto, paella and other rice dishes, fish and I make a good Israeli salad), playing guitar and basketball. I have three children – two sons and a daughter – who keep me very busy.

    What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?


    I grew up in a household that included both science and art, and I became involved in the music industry when I was young. After I finished my PhD, I accepted a position as the producer of the Jerusalem Music Centre and organized many workshops and courses with members of the Emerson String Quartet, Juilliard String Quartet and prominent musicians, including violinist Isaac Stern’s final chamber music course in Jerusalem, just months before he died. I considered making a career of music, but I missed science and returned to it after a year.

    What do you like most about living and working in Jerusalem?


    We have the best students in the country. They are our biggest asset and I enjoy teaching them, learning from them and working with them. When I entered the field, it was still emerging, and it is rewarding to try to get the next generation of students excited about the work we are doing. Also, I have great colleagues that make life enjoyable.  

    What do you gain from your membership with ISSCR?


    I enjoy reading the latest news and being part of this important network. I also enjoy contributing to the ISSCR annual meetings. I was sad to miss the recent meeting in Vancouver, but several of my students presented posters.
  • Membership Spotlight on Jiwen Zhang, PhD

    Hometown: Tongliao, China

    Current Residence: Philadelphia, PA USA

    Graduate Degree: Rutgers University and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

    Current Position: Regulatory Affairs Director at GE Healthcare


    Please tell us about your areas of expertise and current position.


    I am currently a regulatory affairs director at GE Healthcare, working on strategic initiatives in cell technology and biotechnology. My expertise is in regulatory strategy development and execution. One focus area of my work is to develop stem cell technology as a drug development tool. I also work in the areas of cell therapy/regenerative medicine (RM). As the RM field is rapidly evolving, the goal of my strategic initiatives is to work with regulators and other stakeholders to influence and shape the regulatory landscape. 

    What led you to your current industry position?


    I received my PhD in neuroscience and, while doing postdoc work in the immunology department at Schering-Plough (now Merck), I realized I was more interested in the whole drug development process versus just the research. I consulted with several colleagues and my department head and was steered toward regulatory affairs. I have loved my job ever since. Many universities offer a master’s degree in regulatory affairs now, so more young people are finding their way down this career path.

    While I enjoy the breath of areas that regulatory work touches on, I like the biotech and cell tech areas the most because of the cutting edge science and technology and the promise they offer to patients in need.

    How do you spend your free time? 


    I enjoy reading, hiking and playing tennis, if I can find the time and a partner. 

    Most of all, I love spending time with my kids – ages 14 and 7. So much time and thought goes into raising children. My oldest is interested in science, and has even said he wishes to be a neurosurgeon. I tell him that, more than anything, he needs to be persistent.

    What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?


    I grew up in Tongliao in Inner Mongolia, which is part of mainland China, not the Mongolia country, and I came here for graduate school. I visit periodically, and have been there once with each of my children. My parents travel to the U.S. every year to see us. 

    What do you like most about living and working in the Philadelphia area?


    I like that Philadelphia is a major hub of the pharma and biotech industries, and that its proximity to New York and DC allows me to easily visit those cities. I think about retiring to New York City someday.  

    What do you gain from your membership with ISSCR?


    Even though I work in regulatory affairs, I consider myself a scientist at heart. The ISSCR offers me direct access to what is happening in the stem cell research and technology worlds. Hearing firsthand about the new discoveries and progress made in the field makes me work harder at my job to help deliver the most innovative treatments to patients.

    Are you planning to attend the ISSCR Annual Meeting in Vancouver in a few weeks? 


    Yes, and I look forward to everything. Unlike a research scientist in this field, working in regulatory affairs limits my exposure to scientific discoveries and technology advancement. Attending the ISSCR Annual Meeting gives me the opportunity to indulge myself in the research atmosphere and gets me excited and ready to tackle the world. 

  • Member Spotlight on Fernando Pitossi, PhD


     Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
     Currently Resides: Buenos Aires, Argentina
     Graduate Degree: University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
    PhD, University at Freiburg, Germany
     Postdoc: University of Marburg, Germany
     Current: Laboratory Head, Leloir Institute, Buenos Aires
    Scientific Coordinator of CICEMA (Argentine stem cell research consortium)
    Director of PLACEMA (human iPS platform)


    What is the current focus of your research and how did you get where you are?


    My areas of expertise are (1), cell reprogramming and differentiation to study Parkinson’s disease and develop cell therapies for this illness, and (2), neuroinflammation to develop protective therapies for Parkinson’s disease.

    I received my biochemistry degree in Buenos Aires and then went on to a PhD in molecular virology in Europe. As a postdoc, I applied my acquired knowledge in projects involving neuroimmunology and gene therapy of Parkinson’s disease, and it soon became clear that gene-modified cells were the best option for future treatments. Since 2011, I have been enthusiastically collaborating with Xianmin Zeng at the Buck Institute on therapeutic options.

    There is a good deal of public and patient interest in stem cell treatments for Parkinson’s disease. How do you communicate your excitement about your progress with the current limitations?


    It is an exciting time for scientists in my line of research, but our work is still pre-clinical. We are currently testing potential applications in five different animal models, but just in animal models – I’m always very clear about that. I have learned to balance patients’ need for hope and the reality of the current research in my communication to and with the public.

    How do you spend your free time?


    I enjoy soccer, playing with my 10-year-old daughter, Buddhist meditation and cooking Argentinian barbecue, which I pair with excellent Malbec wines. I was asked, a number of years ago, during an interview for my PhD program, if I liked to cook. The scientist questioning me believed that good cooks make good scientists; that curiosity and skill related to recipes is not so different from one to the other.

    What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?


    I am happily living with my ex-wife. She and I divorced many years ago, but later reconnected. We have one daughter from our first relationship and one from our second, and our situation works for our family.

    Is living in Buenos Aires as glamorous as it sounds?


    You certainly have no time to be bored. If you like dining out, an intense cultural environment, friendly relationships and great weather, this is the place to live.

    I spent many years in Europe but would have returned to Argentina earlier if there had been scholarships or grant opportunities available. Since the formation of the Ministry of Science, however, the government perception of science has changed, and there is more funding and better opportunities for collaboration. It used to be that there were twice as many Argentinian scientists abroad as there were practicing at home, but that is changing, and I’m happy to be contributing to the change.

    What do you gain from your membership with ISSCR?


    I have gained an international perspective on stem cell research and the opportunity to network with leaders in the field. Additionally, I’ve come to understand how a scientific society works and the tremendous impact it can have on research. I am currently on the ISSCR Clinical Translation Task Force and, in 2009, I coordinated an ISSCR meeting with the Ministry of Science in my country, which was an overwhelming success – our president opened the meeting.
  • Member Spotlight on Tenneille Ludwig, PhD

     Hometown: Madison, WI, USA
     Currently Resides: Madison, WI, USA
     Graduate Degree: MS from Washington State University; PhD from the University of Wisconsin
     Postdoc: Laboratory of Dr. James Thomson, University of Wisconsin
     Current: Director of the WiCell Stem Cell Bank


    What are your areas of expertise?


    My expertise is in the area of pluripotent stem cell culture optimization with an emphasis on media development (mTeSR1, TeSR2) and in biobanking, specifically the banking, characterization, and global distribution of high quality PSC materials. I actively participate as part of the International Cell Banking Forum, and work with other leaders in the area in developing and refining consensus standards and practices for the banking and distribution of both research and clinical grade stem cells. I minored in bioethics as part of my PhD program, and that background keeps me very interested in ethics and policy, and their relation to the field.

    What led you down your current career path?


    I have an MS in Reproductive Endocrinology and PhD in Embryology/Developmental Biology focusing on the impact of culture conditions (including medium formulation) on in vitro embryo physiology and developmental competence. Initially, I thought I would graduate and direct an IVF clinic, but during my time as a PhD student, Dr. James Thomson published his seminal work on the derivation of human ES cells. I became enamored with stem cell research and its long term possibility to dramatically impact the future of human health.  Upon graduation I accepted a post-doc position with him, aimed at refining culture systems for ES cells.

    What do you enjoy doing in your free time?


    In the summer, my gardens consume a good deal of my free time – I have a vegetable garden, several large shade gardens and a native woodland perennial garden – and they keep me sane. Camping and canoeing are also favorites. In the winter, I do a lot of cooking.

    What is one thing that your peers would be surprised to learn about you?

     
    I paid for my first two years of college with my goat show winnings; most people are surprised to learn that you can show goats professionally. Also, I have a huge Mardi Gras party at my house every year with homemade jambalaya and fried catfish. One year, the UK Stem Cell Bank planned an overlapping conference, and I hauled beads and masks to London with me and passed them out to attendees.

    What is your favorite thing about living in Madison?

     
    While this town has all you need in terms of amenities, I love how quickly you can get away from it all, and go hiking, camping and canoeing. I drive past corn fields and family farms to get home, yet I live 6 miles from downtown Madison and less than 15 minutes from work.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?


    If you work in stem cell research, the ISSCR Annual Meeting is a must. It attracts thought leaders from around the world and provides an environment where not only formal presentations, but private conversations, can happen easily. Where else can you touch base with colleagues, collaborators, and clients – and, more importantly, future colleagues, collaborators, and clients – from around the world with so little effort and expense? I get at least as much good information over a beer and a nosh at the poster session as I do pouring over journals all year long. Attendees get the untold story straight from the scientists that did the work, and occasionally the unpublishable negative data prevents you from wasting time and dollars in your own lab repeating futile work. I will absolutely be in Vancouver this year.
  • Member Spotlight on Sebastian Jessberger, MD

     Hometown: Heidelberg, Germany
     Currently Resides: Zurich, Switzerland
     Graduate Degree: University of Hamburg, Germany
     Postdoc: Gage Lab, Salk Institute, United States
     Current: Associate Professor, Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, Switzerland


    What is your area of expertise and the current focus of your research?

    My research is focused on neural stem cells (NSCs) and the process by which they generate new neurons throughout life in distinct areas of the mammalian brain, called adult neurogenesis. This process is associated with physiologic brain function, but has also been implicated in a number of diseases, such as epilepsy and major depression. Our research aims to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating neural stem cell activity and to characterize the functional role of adult neurogenesis on a behavioral level.

    Additionally, our laboratory aims to understand how physiologic and disease-associated alterations (e.g., in rodent models of depression and anxiety) of the neurogenic niche are translated into stem cell-associated plastic changes of the adult brain and how we can utilize adult NSCs for endogenous brain repair in demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. To reach these aims, we use virus- and transgenesis-based approaches as well as cellular models of human diseases using pluripotent embryonic stem cells.

    What led you down the path to becoming a stem cell scientist?

    My original plan was to become a clinician, but after studying medicine, I decided to become a postdoc to get more experience in research. I was extremely fortunate to have been accepted into Rusty Gage’s laboratory at Salk. He was, and still is, an important teacher and mentor, and because of him and the excitement in his lab, I chose to remain in science.

    And now you are in a position to mentor others…

    Yes, most of my time now is spent directing the research of others, and I am very close to the PhD and postdoc students in my lab. When I started this position, I was very nervous about my role in shaping their futures. Now, I’m more relaxed, as I see them going on to good careers. Their success is one of my personal measures of success.

    What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

    Most of my free time is spent with family and friends. Living in Zurich feels like living in a village, but we are still able to enjoy the cultural life and other conveniences of a big city. We often go to the mountains for skiing and hiking (though, I wish I could combine this with SoCal surfing).

    What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?

    How little I work (but maybe they shouldn’t know that). I am fortunate to have flexibility now, which has not always been the case. It makes it easier to balance work and family; my children are nine and six. I try to be understanding of my students with children, because I know what it is like to be a postdoc.

    What do you gain from your membership with ISSCR?

    I benefit a lot from the science in the journals published by, or in cooperation with, ISSCR. These offer a great platform for presenting our research, as does ISSCR Connect, on which I was recently invited to deliver a web-based lecture.

    Are you planning to attend the ISSCR Annual Meeting in Vancouver?

    Yes, I plan to attend. In the past, the ISSCR meeting has turned out to be a great opportunity to informally share ideas and concepts with others in the field. This year, I will use the opportunity to discuss with colleagues novel concepts my lab is trying to formulate based on findings that suggest how cellular age is segregated in the context of somatic stem cell division.
  • Member Spotlight on Sabine Middendorp, PhD

    Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    Currently Resides: Utrecht, the Netherlands
    Graduate Degree: Erasmus MC Rotterdam
    Postdoc, (current): Assistant Professor at Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital (WKZ); University Medical Center Utrecht (Edward Nieuwenhuis lab)


    What is your area of expertise and the current focus of your research?

    In my research, we collect biopsies from patients with intestinal disease, such as rare congenital diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. We then generate organoids (stem cell-based cultures) from these patients in the lab, which provide unique in vitro model systems to study the pathophysiology of these diseases.

    I am also involved in a translational project, Regenerating Intestinal Tissue with Stem Cells (RITS), from Hans Clevers (Hubrecht Institute) and Edward Nieuwenhuis (WKZ, UMCU), to translate organoids from bench-to-bedside as an alternative for intestinal transplantation in children with congenital intestinal disorders. For this project, we have recently determined that the location-specific properties of small intestinal epithelial cells are intrinsically programmed within the stem cells, suggesting that we would need to grow organoids from different parts of the small intestine to rescue most functional properties.

    What is your greatest pleasure in life?

    Spending time with my husband and two sons (ages four and one and a half). It is a challenge to balance family and research, but I love my job. I try to leave my work behind when I’m home and on holiday.

    What is one thing that your peers or colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?

    I have a large Miffy collection – puzzles, books, collector’s items, my sandwich box – started when I was 16. Miffy, called “Nijntje” in Dutch, is the creation of Dick Bruna, a well-known artist in the Netherlands, who resides in Utrecht. I admire his work and am always amazed by his way of drawing complex things with very simple lines. He strives to make things as simple as possible, a philosophy that also inspires me.

    What is your favorite thing about living in Utrecht?

    It is a cozy town, only 320,000 people and many students, with World Heritage canals running through it. I bike to work most days year-round.

    Congratulations on winning a free registration to the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, for completing our member survey. Are you a lucky person? Do you win a lot of things?

    Yes, I am indeed a lucky person. I regularly win things – a vacuum cleaner, tickets for musicals, movies and amusement parks, hotel vouchers, a beanbag and now the free meeting registration. I plan to register before February 28, so I have a chance to win the Vancouver seaplane tour, as well!

    What are you most looking forward to when visiting Vancouver?

    I was in Vancouver for a conference last year, and enjoyed lunch on the promenade, the boat houses and Stanley Park. I’m planning to rent a bicycle this year, so that I can see more of the city. Most of all, however, I am excited about the meeting program and am looking forward to meeting people within our field.
  • Member Spotlight on Yukiko Yamashita, PhD

    Hometown: Kobe, Japan
    Currently Resides: Ann Arbor, MI
    Graduate Degree: Kyoto University
    Postdoc Work: Stanford School of Medicine
    Current Position: Associate Professor, Department of Cell & Developmental Biology
    University of Michigan Medical School


    What is your area of expertise and the current focus of your research? 

    My focus is asymmetric stem cell division. In graduate school, I became interested in how cells generate exact copies of themselves, and then further in the idea of asymmetric cell division, whereby a tweak causes a cell to produce two daughter cells that are a bit different from one another (but, of course, not deleteriously asymmetric, as is the case with aneuploidy). My interest is actually in asymmetry, not stem cells per se, but stem cells happen to be a population that often depends on asymmetric division.

    Have you always been interested in science?

    I have always wanted to solve problems, and I believe I wanted to be a scientist very early on, even before I understood the profession and realized science could be a job. 

    What do you like most about living in the United States?

    The US culture encourages creativity and risk taking, which is so important in research. As a scientist, I am able to be myself and explore nature based solely on my own logic and curiosity and without the fear of failure. 

    What is your greatest pleasure in life?

    I love watching and helping people grow, both as a mentor and as a parent. I have a 9-year-old daughter, and she keeps me from being carried away by my career. I have found parenting keeps you grounded and forces you to prioritize what is important. For me, it means time away from my job, and these forced breaks allow me to look at my science with refreshed eyes. I am more organized and more productive because I am a mom.

    What is one thing that your peers or colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?

    I did not get my U.S. driver’s license until I moved to Michigan, and even then, I put it off as long as possible. I never drove much in Japan, where the public transportation is wonderful, and I was able to get around without a car during my time in California. I was proud of myself when I finally made the commitment and took the test!

    What do you gain from your membership with ISSCR?

    For me, joining ISSCR is automatic. It means being part of a community. Even though ISSCR is big and spans a lot of different areas, I still feel a sense of belonging and a connection to other members through our shared work and purpose.