Member Spotlight

Get to know your fellow ISSCR members through this monthly series. We are 4,100 members across 60+ countries. Let’s make our world just a little bit smaller one member at a time.
  • Member Spotlight on Malin Parmar, PhD

    Hometown
    Tomelilla, Sweden

    Current Residence
    Lund, Sweden

    Graduate Degree
    PhD in Developmental Biology

    Current Position
    Professor of Cellular Neuroscience, Lund University;
    NYSCF Robertson Investigator

    What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?

    My group works with translational stem cell biology. The focus of my research is to understand cell fate specification in the developing brain and in human neural progenitor cells using cell-based models of neuronal differentiation. Our current focus is to learn how to direct and efficiently drive controlled differentiation of human stem cells into subtype-specific neurons. We also develop technologies for direct conversion of human fibroblasts into functional and subtype-specific neurons in vitro, and the conversion of endogenous glia into neurons in vivo.
    The ultimate aim is to develop these cells and technologies for use in brain repair, with focus on Parkinson’s disease. And we are rapidly approaching this! We are right now part of a clinical EU funded trial, TRANSEURO, where we are transplanting patients using fetal cells and we hope to start out first stem cell based trial within 2 years.


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

    A good combination of curiosity and chance. I did my undergraduate degree in Canada and being on a student VISA I could only work on campus. I got my first job to feed the sea urchins at the Department of Biology, and soon got involved in a project studying gastrulation. From the day I set foot in the lab I loved every bit of it! I have always been curious and the project was a great introduction to science. Sea Urchins have large transparent embryos so you could actually see gastrulation going on live in the microscope. I have also always loved the practical work in the lab.
    For my degree project I worked on hematopoietic stem cells at the Terry Fox Laboratory. That was a great, great place to work and after that year there was no other career choice for me than science.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I spend most of my time with my family and whenever we can we do active things together. Running, skiing, hiking, snorkeling etc. And I love traveling (but hate flying).

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

    I am great at classic computer games! Can still keep a game of Tetris going for hours and hours.

    What do you value most about your membership with the ISSCR?

    It is a great society to be a member of. What I value most is how ISSCR brings together the global community on stem cell related topics.

  • Member Spotlight on Jeremy Sugarman, MD

    Hometown
    Paramus, New Jersey (U.S.)

    Current Residence
    Baltimore, Maryland (U.S.)

    Graduate Degree
    MD, MPH, MA (Philosophy - Applied Ethics)

    Current Position
    Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Bioethics and Medicine, Professor of Medicine, Professor of Health Policy and Management, Deputy Director for Medicine of the Berman Institute of Bioethics, and co-chair Institutional Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee at the Johns Hopkins University

    What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?

    I work in the field of biomedical ethics using both conceptual and empirical approaches to address an array of topics including the ethics of umbilical cord blood banking, stem cell research, emerging technologies, international HIV prevention research, global health, informed consent and research oversight.  In addition to continued projects related to these issues, I am currently involved with projects related to the ethical aspects of pragmatic clinical trials, novel HIV+ to HIV+ solid organ transplants and HIV cure research. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is the opportunity to work with those who are on the frontiers of science and medicine to identify and attend to the ethical aspects of their work.

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

    I have been interested in bioethics since I was an undergraduate and was fortunate to be able to participate in the field as it developed. My interest in the ethical aspects of stem cell research in particular grew out of some initial work I did on the ethical issues associated with the then new field of umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation.

    How do you spend your free time?

    Sampling local cuisines and going for long runs in beautiful parts of the world.

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

    I have only been to 83 countries and 46 states in the US.

    What do you value most about your membership with the ISSCR?

    Being able to learn from and collaborate with scientists who are doing leading stem cell research.

  • Member Spotlight on Selina Wray, PhD

    Hometown
    Barnsley, South Yorkshire, U.K.

    Current Residence
    London, U.K.

    Graduate Degree
    PhD in Neuroscience, Kings College London

    Current Position
    Alzheimer’s Research UK Senior Research Fellow, University College London, Institute of Neurology

    What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?

    My research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of dementia, with a particular focus on two diseases: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).  There are currently no disease-modifying therapies for these diseases, so they represent a huge public health challenge.  
    Dementia research is a priority area in the UK currently, and the Medical Research Council has just established the UK Dementia Research Institute – the first research institute to be 100% dedicated to dementia research.  The Hub for this will be located at UCL, with Centers around the UK.  It’s a really exciting time to be working in this area and it’s given the dementia research community a renewed sense of drive and purpose moving forward.
    There are many rewarding aspects to my job – the environment at the Institute of Neurology is truly multidisciplinary, with neurologists, geneticists, neuropathologists and cell biologists all working alongside each other.  It’s really rewarding to feel part of a process, and see the whole pipeline from bench to bedside laid out ahead of you in one Institute.  


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

    I started working with stem cells after joining Professor John Hardy’s laboratory as a junior research fellow in 2009.  I had worked extensively with post-mortem tissue from AD and FTD during in my PhD, and wanted to change my focus to disease modeling and trying to understand early stages of these diseases rather than working with end-stage samples.
    Although we didn’t have a stem cell lab at the time, the Institute of Neurology is co-located with the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square.  This means we have unrivalled access to well-phenotyped patient cohorts, including those with rare, genetic forms of dementia.  We collaborate extensively with our clinical colleagues and were able to build up a resource of fibroblasts from AD and FTD patients.  However, we had no idea how to turn these into iPSC!  I was really lucky that I was able to spend some time in Dr Tilo Kunath’s lab at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where I learnt how to do reprogramming and which allowed me to set up an iPSC lab back at UCL.  What started off as a postdoc allowed me to find my niche and laid the foundations for what would go on to be my own group. 

    How do you spend your free time?

    There’s so much going on in London its impossible to get bored, and I try to take advantage of this as much as possible.  We’re really lucky to have so many free museums and galleries – my favourite is Tate Modern, and I can spend many Sunday afternoons there enjoying the exhibits and the fantastic views along the river.  I also really enjoy live music and go to lots of gigs especially at Brixton Academy, which is close to where I live – not good for my wallet!

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

    I’m a huge fan of tattoos and have four – one on each foot, one on my upper leg and one on my back.  Generally hidden from view, especially in the English weather, although they do make appearances over summer! 

    What do you value most about your membership with the ISSCR?

    Although I have been using stem cells in my research for a number of years, I used to view them just as a “means to an end” to generate relevant models.  But to get the most out of them it is really crucial to keep up with the research in this area and appreciate the developmental context of the cells.  Working in this area has really reignited my interest in neurodevelopment and this prompted me to join ISSCR to become more engaged with the wider stem cell community. I am really excited about attending my first ISSCR meeting in June!

  • Member Spotlight with Salvador Aznar-Benitah, PhD

    Hometown
    Montreal / Madrid.

    Current Residence
    Barcelona, Spain

    Graduate Degree
    PhD in Molecular Oncology

    Current Position
    Group leader at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona (ICREA Researcher)

    What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?

    We aim at understanding how adult stem cells maintain healthy tissues. We are also very interested in understanding why stem cells fail to maintain their regenerative capacity as we age, and how and why they are perturbed during carcinogenesis. 

    One of the things I find particularly rewarding is that my lab is very heterogeneous. We study stem cell behavior from many different points of view, which results in some people in my lab working on circadian rhythms (i.e. timing of stem cell function), others on epigenetic mechanisms (how stem cells remember or change their function and identity in different circumstances), and others on metabolism and metastasis (i.e. how dietary lipids regulate metastatic-initiating cells). This creates a very challenging, but also highly stimulating and diverse scientific environment in the lab. 

    The other thing I find most rewarding about my work is the day to day interaction with the Masters and PhD students, Postdocs and Research Assistants of my lab. Since I started my lab 9 years ago, I have been lucky to always have people in my lab that are very committed and passionate about science. The best moment of my day is when I meet with them to discuss their results. 


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

    As far as I can remember, I´ve always been fascinated by science. I did however, hesitate between literature and biochemistry when faced with the choice of which undergraduate studies to take. I chose the latter, and I am glad I did, since being a scientist is perfectly compatible with my love for literature. 

    And why did I become a stem cell scientist? During my PhD I developed several projects aimed at identifying transcriptional mechanisms important for tumorigenesis. However, I soon realized that if I was to understand cancer, I had to first understand how healthy tissues work. In fact, I became increasingly frustrated at how much of the cancer research done back then ignored this. How could we understand why cancer cells behave aberrantly, if we do not know how normal cells behave? I started reading about stem cells and immediately became hooked. Back then, research in the stem cell field was already responding to many of the questions I kept on asking myself during my PhD. It was during my postdoc years where I had the chance to get fully introduced into stem cell research. And since then, it has been the major topic of my research. 

    How do you spend your free time?

    I spend as much time as possible with my wife and our two kids. Barcelona is a great city to have kids, and one can have a nice walk through the mountains in the morning, and spend the rest of the day at the beach. We also enjoy very much meeting friends for lunch or dinner. The food and culture of this city ensures that one always has something new to discover.

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

    I think many would be surprised to know that since I was 14 years old I have always played guitar in a band. I still dedicate every day some time to playing guitar. 

    But I think what would mostly surprise people is my (secret) interest in the evolution of language. In my opinion, our ability to have developed such complex ability to communicate is the key (only?) distinction between us and the rest of animals. It is a fascinating topic. And I must say that although I have read much about it (and cherish my pretty decent library on the topic), it seems to me that we still do not understand how and why our ability to speak evolved.  

    What do you value most about your membership with the ISSCR?

    The ISSCR is the great plaza where we all get to meet and interact. It gives all of us who are interested in stem cell research the chance to learn what is new in our field, and what are some of the concerns and needs of our society that we could help solve. On a more personal note, it has also been the place where I have made great friends that I look forward to meeting every year.

  • Member Spotlight on Roger Ronn, PhD

    Hometown
    Stockholm, Sweden.

    Current Residence
    Edinburgh, U.K.

    Graduate Degree
    PhD in Medical Science, University of Lund

    Current Position
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh.

    What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?

    In a nutshell, I am interested in understanding the specific conditions that allow HSCs to form during embryonic development, and to successfully recreate these conditions in the lab so that HSCs may be generated. I am particularly interested in how low oxygen levels (hypoxia) may be an important factor for HSCs to form. Since we cannot study human embryonic development directly we instead use cultures of pluripotent stem cells that we differentiate towards blood in the lab.Having just started working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, what I find most rewarding is that, while I can broaden my laboratory skills to include working with mouse cells in addition to human cells, I am able to continue doing research pursuing a theory from my PhD time that I think may be an important step towards finally generating functional HSC in vitro.

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

    The first time I really felt a particular drive towards any subject was in high school when I got a university graduate as a temporary biology teacher. He had a genuine interest in biology and he taught it with such enthusiasm that it really left an impression on me.
    I can’t say that it was clear to me from the start that I wanted to become a scientist. I just loved to study the topics that I was interested in and to be part of university life. I progressed through my bachelor in chemistry and molecular biology, and during this time I also incorporated 1 year of studies in Japanese. I did not know it right then but studying Japanese would later allow me to do my master degree project, through international exchange, at the Tohoku University in Japan. As I spent almost a year in Japan I was finally getting my first real experience working in a lab, and this period made it clear to me that becoming a scientist was what I truly wanted. Once back in Sweden I immediately enrolled in the preparatory program for PhD studies, and while it has been a long and sometimes tough journey I have never regretted it. I think I am very lucky to have found a profession that I can feel passionate about.

    How do you spend your free time?

    Since the hours outside the lab are quite limited I tend to be spending that time together with my wife Meike and my 1-year old daughter Mia. I also try to put time into exercise (usually swimming), and I do my best to stay in touch with friends (but I avoid loosing time on continuous distractions such as Facebook).

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

    For foreigners, Swedish people can sometimes appear to be a bit introvert and difficult to talk to but I don’t think that description works for me. I am quite extrovert, got a unhinged sense of humour and tend to break the ice quickly when I meet new colleagues. I think that people who meet me for the first time sometimes get the initial impression that I am a bit odd. If I have an interesting or funny story to tell I generally go ahead and share that (without modification) no matter if I am talking with juniors or seniors. It usually takes a week or two before people get used to that but I think it does make the social aspect at work more relaxed. At conferences or seminars I usually
    don’t hesitate to throw myself into approaching colleagues that I haven’t met before, and the networking part has actually grown into something that I enjoy just as much as the science. Something else that few people would know about me is that I also know how to dance (both salsa and bachata).

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    I have only lived in Edinburgh for a couple of months but I already love it. It’s not the sunniest of places but the people are very friendly and easy to talk to. With massive hills in and around the city, and with the ocean close by, the views are amazing. The 433 year old University puts a very academic feel to the city and students and other academics can be seen everywhere. The near airport makes international travelling easy, and if I wan’t to visit friends and colleagues in London or in Cambridge I just need to get on the train for a few hours.

    What do you value most about your membership with the ISSCR?

    Being a member of the ISSCR, and to attend the annual meetings, is a great way to get the most out of being a stem cell researcher. The scientific feedback gained at these meetings, and importantly the networking with others, have in many ways affected how my career developed. The wide range of stem cell research presented at these conferences provide a great opportunity to get new ideas and to meet people that may become future colleagues or collaborators. Furthermore, the ISSCR put an emphasis on the need to establish clear ethical guidelines regarding stem cell research. Because of all this I became interested in getting involved, and as a new member of ISSCR’s Junior Investigator Committee I hope that I can help to better forward the potential of stem cell research.

  • Member Spotlight on Marcie Glicksman, PhD

    Hometown
    Princeton, NJ, U.S.

    Current Residence
    Boston, MA, U.S.

    Graduate Degree
    PhD in Neuroscience, Washington University

    Current Position
    Chief Scientific Officer, Orig3n, Inc.

    What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?

    I am the Chief Scientific Officer at Orig3n and at Orig3n, we are a pioneer in regenerative medicine and creating the largest source of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for the understanding and treatment of a variety of diseases. What excites me is the impact this will have on the future of medicine. The access to large numbers of human cells from “normal” and disease patients allows scientists to understand differences between people and understand the molecular mechanisms of disease.

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

    I went into the world of therapeutics because I like science and medicine. Developing therapeutics relies on the solid foundation of science and applies this foundation to our understanding of disease. For the first part of my career, I had to use cell models by starting with cancer lines because they divided easily and could be manipulated. There was no easy access to human tissue that could be cultured in a dish. Who wants to donate a bit of their brain or heart for research? The fact that IPSCs can be differentiated to any tissue is powerful!

    How do you spend your free time?

    I like the outdoors and being active. This takes the form of running, hiking, and cross country skiing. I also like to go out to dinner and the theater with my husband and friends. I have three grown children that live nearby and I like spending time with them, as well.

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

    I am a classically trained mandolin player, but I don’t have a chance to play much right now.

    What do you value most about your membership with the ISSCR?

    One of the best aspects of the ISSCR is the opportunity to listen to exciting stem cell science; this includes what’s going on now and the newest directions the field is going. The conference serves also as a way for scientists to get together for informal discussions. I hope to get more involved in the ISSCR organization and the running of future conferences.

  • Member Spotlight on Aaron Levine, PhD

    Hometown
    Seattle, WA, USA

    Current Residence
    Atlanta, GA, USA

    Graduate Degree
    MPhil in Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge
    PhD in Public Affairs, Princeton University 

    Current Position
    Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, School of Public Policy, Georgia Tech

    What is the current focus of your research?

    My research focuses on understanding the influence of ethical controversy and public policy on biomedical rthesearch and healthcare. Within this broad area, I have focused on understanding how these forces have shaped the conduct of stem cell research and the development of cell-based therapies specifically.


    Over the years, this research has touched on many issues relevant to stem cell science, including the geographic distribution of stem cell research publications, the domestic and international mobility of stem cell scientists, the rise and oversight of unproven stem cell based interventions and the education of graduate students in the stem cell science and related fields. 

    Much of this work has examined ethical controversy surrounding the acquisition and use of human embryos and oocytes for stem cell research and assessed how this has influenced the policy environment and, in turn, shaped the field.

    My research also addresses a series of related questions relevant to the practice and oversight of assisted reproductive technology (e.g. IVF) in the United States and around the world.

    In addition to research and teaching, I also run Georgia Tech’s MS and PhD degrees in Public Policy. These programs focus on the intersection between public policy and science and technology broadly defined and I would be delighted to talk with ISSCR members interested in graduate work in science policy generally or stem cell policy more specifically. 

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

    I have been interested in science, especially biology, as long as I can remember and, as an undergraduate biology major, I planned on a career in biological research. My undergraduate experiences pipetting and unsuccessfully attempting to navigate a lengthy (and frustrating) electron microscopy protocol convinced me to look outside the laboratory.

    I moved first to computational biology, where, as a Master’s student at Cambridge, I developed algorithms to find rare U12 introns in the human genome sequence. Then, when I found the ethical and policy implications of the genome project more exciting than annotating the sequence itself, I moved on to my current focus at the intersection of public policy and biomedical science.

    How do you spend your free time?

    Free time is exceedingly rare these days, but if I have some, I can probably be found playing at one of Atlanta’s many parks with my two young children.

    Outside of work, when time permits, I enjoy photography and once spent a summer hitchhiking around the south island of New Zealand “studying” nature photography. I have switched to digital for the vast majority of my photography today, but I really prefer the pre-digital era and, for many years, developed and printed my own black and white photos.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    Atlanta is a fun city to live in. It’s affordable (compared to many similarly sized US cities), and has lots of good restaurants, parks and cultural amenities. It also has one of the world’s largest airports from which you can fly non-stop to more than 200 cities. This really makes travel to the ISSCR annual meeting a breeze.

    Georgia Tech is renowned for its engineering programs, but is also an excellent place to study public policy, especially for someone with interests at the intersection of public policy and science and technology.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    ISSCR has been a great resource for me over the years, providing an opportunity keep up with cutting edge stem cell science and interact with members of the stem cell policy and ethics community. I’ve been glad to see ISSCR increase the policy and ethics content at its meetings in recent years and hope to see this trend continue, as public policy will need to play an important role if stem cell science is to reach its full potential.

    Editor’s note: You might also enjoy Policy Director Kevin Wilson's bi-weekly Policy Brief newsletter, a brief look at global science policy news of interest to the stem cell community.
  • Member Spotlight on Kimberley Nicole Babos, BS

    Hometown
    Mesa, AZ, USA

    Current Residence
    Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Graduate Degree
    Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine 

    Current Position
    PhD Candidate at the University of Southern California

    What is the current focus of your research?

    The Ichida Lab at USC studies amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a devastating neurological disease with no effective cure. We harness the power of direct lineage reprogramming to generate induced motor neurons from patient samples. With these patient-derived induced motor neurons, we can study disease phenotypes “in a dish” and pursue patient-specific therapeutic treatments. However, this system is extremely inefficient, and the cells generated are often a mixed culture of fibroblasts and neurons.

    My project focuses on identifying roadblocks to efficient induced motor neuron production. What started as a side project during my rotation three years ago is now the crux of my PhD thesis and has yielded mounds of exciting results (I guess it’s not all a fluke after all!). We have found a unique and robust method with which to improve conversion efficiency that also enhances properties of the induced motor neurons generated. Importantly, our data indicate that these induced motor neurons are mature, distinct, and clinically relevant cells that accurately model neurological diseases in vitro. 

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

    I was a gymnast for almost 15 years and suffered numerous injuries. The most devastating, and shocking to most people, is that I fractured my C4 vertebrae by accidentally doing a front flip on my head. It should have been career ending, right? Wrong! 

    For some reason, I couldn’t give up gymnastics, and a few months later I was competing again. I competed for another two years and “retired” on top as a state champion on uneven bars.

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

    Growing up, I always wanted to be a medical doctor, not a scientist doctor (an important distinction for a 12 year old). It might be no surprise then, that after years of countless visits to orthopedic surgeons, I was inspired to become a doctor helping gymnasts with their injuries. So, I enrolled as a biology major at Arizona State University, passed my science courses, and took the dreaded MCAT at the end of college. Truthfully, I failed, epically and miserably, and I was devastated.

    That same summer, though, as fate would have it, I received a prestigious internship as a Helios Scholar at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). TGen was a fabulous institute to begin a science career. The facilities are beautiful, the technologies cutting-edge, and the staff and faculty went out of their way to train us as productive young scientists. I worked in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Keats studying multiple myeloma where I focused on characterizing one of the most commonly mutated genes in the disease. I spent the next 8 weeks learning to pipette (muscle memory starts somewhere, right?), clone plasmids, and culture cells.

    Then, at the end-of-summer Helios Scholars Symposium, it clicked: science was FUN, I was good at what I did, and I did not want my internship to end. I suddenly realized that THIS was what I was meant to do, cliché as that sounds. So, in the span of 2 about months, I took the GRE, submitted graduate school applications, and 4 years later here I am a PhD candidate at USC! 

    I honestly had no idea what field I wanted to study in graduate school. Thankfully, the PIBBS program at USC allows students to rotate in several labs their first year, Dr. Justin Ichida’s lab being one of them. When I joined the lab, I worked on in vivo reprogramming, seeking to generate induced motor neurons in the limbs of mice for neurological regeneration purposes. Given my personal connection to and experience with spinal cord injury, this project was obviously made for and spoke volumes to me.

    I am so thankful Justin saw potential in and took a chance on me by giving me the opportunity to work for him. I’m thrilled and honored to be part of the ever evolving stem cell field where my ideas contribute to its growth and, hopefully, the advancement of medicine. To think that we can make neural cells from skin cells still blows my mind, and makes me excited for what is still to come!

    How do you spend your free time?

    I really am blessed to have time to do the things I love. With summer temperatures hovering at around 110°F in Phoenix, our family always beat the heat by escaping to San Diego while I was growing up. Now living in LA, I often take the quick 1.5-hour drive down to San Diego for a day or two to recharge, lay at the beach, and ride bikes around Mission Bay and Pacific Beach. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, though, I LOVE snow skiing. From the time I could walk, I learned to ski in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of Park City, Utah. Boy am I spoiled with all that fresh powder every year!

    I also love to travel, a gene inherited by my father. My dad is always planning his next 3 trip itineraries in his head and we joke that he is our personal Rick Steves tour guide. I’ve been fortunate to visit Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe several times, most recently for the ISSCR Annual Meeting in Stockholm last summer. Some of my favorite cities are those “paths less traveled” like Krakow, Poland; Budapest, Hungary; and Barcelona, Spain.

    I love to grocery shop, cook, play board games, and sightsee with my wonderful fiancé here in LA. My other “hobby” when not in lab is actually wedding planning, too. My sister is getting married in San Diego this June and it has been so much fun spoiling her as her maid of honor. Simultaneously, I am planning our wedding for April 2017, so wedding bells are quite literally booming in my family’s house right now!

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    Working at USC is a unique environment to pursue translational research because of the ease and accessibility with which we can work with LA County Hospital, USC Keck Hospital, and other leading universities in LA and nearby San Diego. It makes you feel like the work you’re putting in at the bench now can really come full circle to patients at the bedside in the future.

    Los Angeles is a dream city, and I love its diversity. I love that living in LA has expanded my food palette, and that I’ve seen sights like the Griffith Observatory and Getty Villa.

    The weather in LA is also incredible; hiking near the Hollywood sign, picnicking in the park, and going to the beach in February all seem “normal.” It’s hard not to love a place like Los Angeles where it’s sunny with a chance of happiness 99% of the year.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    My favorite benefit of being an ISSCR member is attending the Annual Meeting. Whether giving a lightning-fast Poster Teaser or presenting at one of the Poster Sessions, I’ve thought more critically about my research project in conversations with “outsiders” posing stimulating questions and ideas. These conversations keep me on my toes, and allow me to critically-evaluate the current state of my project as well as what future directions are necessary.

    Beyond the scientific aspect of the Annual Meeting, the networking opportunities are unparalleled, especially for young investigators and trainees. Where else can you interact with journal editors, industry professionals, and world-renowned stem cell leaders in scientific and social settings than at the Annual Meeting? I have personally developed great relationships with attendees at these meetings that have fostered collaborations and friendships, both of which will be invaluable for my personal and professional development.
  • Member Spotlight on Salvador Aznar-Benitah, PhD

    Hometown
    Montreal, Canada and Madrid, Spain

    Current Residence
    Barcelona, Spain

    Graduate Degree
    Biochemistry and molecular biology from McGill University, Montreal, Canada 

    Postgrad work
    London Research Institute (Cancer Research, UK)

    Current Position
    Group Leader, ICREA Researcher, Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) Barcelona, Spain

    What is the current focus of your research?

    In my lab we aim at identifying and characterizing the mechanisms underlying the function of adult stem cells. When I established my lab in 2007 we mainly focused on studying epidermal stem cells, although in recent years we are also working with stem cells from other tissues such as the mammary gland. I am very interested in understanding how adult stem cells are spatiotemporally regulated, how they communicate with their local and systemic environment, and importantly, how stem cell malfunction contributes to ageing and cancer. This, as you can imagine, makes my lab quite heterogeneous. 

    For instance, we have projects focused on studying the temporal function of adult stem cells. Why do stem cells do what they do at specific times of the day? Our work, and that of others, has shown that the function of stem cells is tightly controlled by circadian rhythms, and that this mechanism allows stem cells to save energy and to cope with stress in a very efficient manner. Interestingly, stem cells without a proper circadian rhythm show strong signs of premature ageing, and several projects in my lab are now aimed at understanding this ageing phenotype in detail. I am quite excited about these projects, since we are studying the process of ageing and circadian rhythms in several tissues, allowing us for the first time to identify common and tissue-specific features of adult stem cell ageing. 

    Another major interest of my lab is to understand the epigenetic mechanisms that ensure that adult stem cells remain functionally flexible to maintain homeostasis, and to respond to different kinds of stress. We know that some of these mechanisms are perturbed during ageing and cancer, so it has been very interesting to compare their function in the healthy versus the unhealthy states. We combine in vivo models and state of the art genomic techniques to pursue these objectives making these projects challenging but also very exciting. 

    Lastly, in recent years and in close collaboration with a team of clinicians at the Hospital Vall D´Hebron in Barcelona, we are developing a large project aimed at studying the molecular mechanisms responsible for the metastatic spread of oral squamous cell carcinomas, as well as to identify better prognostic and therapeutic strategies against this aggressive type of tumor. This project is allowing us to study the process of cancer progression in patient-derived material, and to combine for the first time basic and clinical research in my lab. 

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

    I have always been interested in science. I remember at school being thrilled with biology and chemistry courses. That said, I also liked literature a lot (and still do), and in fact when I had to choose which undergraduate program I would apply to I doubted for a while whether to apply to biology or literature. In the end I decided to study biochemistry and molecular biology at McGill University, which was one of the best experiences of my life. 

    With regards to stem cell research, during my PhD studies I started to get increasingly frustrated with the fact that I was studying cancer but I did not know well how the normal tissue worked. I my opinion this prevented me from fully understanding why cancer cells were behaving aberrantly. This is the time when I started reading about adult stem cells and the emerging concepts of cancer stem cells. I was instantly hooked. I then had, 12 years ago, the great chance to move to London to work in the laboratory of Fiona Watt where I was exposed to and learned about the field of stem cells. Although since then my scientific interests have diversified, the main focus of my research is still stem cells, and I have had the change to witness the amazing advances the field has made. Anyone attending the ISSCR annual meetings would agree that this is an exciting time to work in the field of stem cells.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I try to spend all my free time with my wife, Carmen, and my two kids, Mateo and Lucia. Mateo is 5 and Lucia 3 so they are plenty of fun but also keep us quite busy! We also spend time with friends enjoying the wonderful variety of food that Barcelona offers.

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

    I think some of my peers would be surprised to know that I have a very large collection of graphic novels (for those of you interested I strongly recommend anything by Seth, Alan Moore, Michel Rabagliati, Guy Delisle, and my favorite, Chris Ware).

    My peers might also be surprised that I have played most of my life in a rock 'n' roll band (I play the guitar). I particularly like songs by The Rolling Stones, M Ward, Led Zeppelin, and of course The Beatles! I am a self-taught player, so perhaps if you would hear me play you might not even recognize I am playing a song by any of these great Bands…

    Also, one of my secret passions is to read about the evolution of language, and economy (don´t ask me why…). I am thoroughly enjoying the book series of Freakonomics lately.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    Barcelona is a great city to live in. Its arquitecture, its cuisine, the mountains, the beach, its people, and how multicultural it is, are all very appealing to my family and me. It is also an easy city to live in. Not too big in size, but still with the feeling of a large metropolis. 

    But Barcelona is much more than that. It has a thriving research community (basic and clinical), with a strong commitment to research, and innovation. This was not always the case in the past, but a well-planned investment scheme in recent decades, and its capacity to attract internationally renowned scientists, has made Barcelona a very exciting place to work in as a scientist. For me these things were very important when deciding whether to move to Barcelona to start my own independent research.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    The ISSCR is the meeting where we all get the chance to gather and learn about the latest research in our field, and share our own. It is also a great opportunity to interact with my peers socially and scientifically (and let´s not forget a very important thing: to get to see Len Zon dancing at the gala!). Besides the main annual meeting I think the smaller ones with more concise themes are also being very stimulating, and are allowing younger scientists to directly interact with the senior people in the field.
  • Member Spotlight on Jennifer L. Moody, PhD

    Hometown:
    Toronto, ON, Canada

    Current Residence:
    Toronto, ON, Canada

    Graduate Degree:
    PhD in Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Postgrad work:
    PostDoc, Lund Stem Cell Centre, Lund, Sweden

    Current Position:
    Director, Commercialization and Licensing, Center for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, Toronto, ON, Canada






    What is the current focus of your research?

    I am currently focused on the business side of regenerative medicine and work at the Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) in Toronto. It is a fantastic initiative funded by the Canadian government to capitalize on many years of investment in strong basic research by the Canadian stem cell research community. Our mandate is to translate technologies and intellectual property into commercial products and processes, to create jobs and companies in the space, and positively impact health outcomes for Canadians. 

    No two days are ever exactly the same, but they usually involve interacting with researchers and tech transfer offices, crafting and reviewing agreements, working with the team to perform due diligence and propose ways to advance technologies, and travelling to discuss novel technologies and expand our network.

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

    With respect to becoming a scientist, well it certainly wasn’t thanks to technology-driven career counseling. My high school guidance department had this computer program where you answered a bunch of questions, fed a little sheet in, and then out popped your best-suited career choices. All my friends got their lists, and when my turn came, the thing spit out exactly one option for me – upholsterer.

    Yeah. Thank goodness to Mrs. Ho, an inspiring biology teacher, I enrolled into an undergraduate degree in genetics at York University in Toronto. The department there was small enough that one could get to know the professors and volunteer/work in their labs. I found very good mentors there – Dr. Marla Sokolowski first for genetics and then Dr. John Heddle for genetics, stem cells and mutation theory. I worked as a technician for John for a few years, and then, fresh from calling off a wedding and suddenly being free to go anywhere and do anything I wanted, I set off to do my PhD in Vancouver. 

    I did my doctorate in genetics, in mouse models of autoimmunity with Dr. Frank Jirik, and followed that with a postdoc in hematopoietic stem cell biology in Lund, Sweden with Dr. Stefan Karlsson. I recall my dad asking me if the postdoc position meant I finally had a real job. I loved my time in Sweden and had a very productive and enjoyable experience there. Despite my success in my postdoc, I became very aware that academia was not my end goal, and this is the part of the story where, to my father’s great relief, my career really started to precipitate out. 

    I applied for and was given an R&D position at STEMCELL Technologies in Vancouver. They were just starting their embryonic stem cell product line, and while I had never even seen an ES cell, I eagerly jumped in. I had switched fields within biology a few times and was quite comfortable doing so. Looking down a microscope at cells that were literally the masters of human cell biology was awesome. Successfully launching a media (mTeSR1) that would globally enable and ultimately change the way people cultured these cells really opened my eyes to the importance and impact of commercialization, and it remains my most fulfilling career accomplishment to date. I am very grateful to Dr. Allen Eaves and my STEMCELL colleagues for the opportunity to forge a career in this space.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I am a mom to a brilliant and energetic six year old, and I spend most of my free time with him and my spouse Brent. 

    I love my garden and have a slightly obsessive hate for weeds. 

    My favorite place in the world is my back patio in the summer evenings with my boys. However, the season always seems too short in Toronto, so I fill in the rest of the year with love for travelling to warm places, cooking, and eating – basically all the good stuff in life.

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

    Once a year, I get totally obsessed with building and decorating a birthday cake for my son. Whether it is a train, or a racecar, an angry birds scene or ninja turtles emerging from a manhole, I am all over it. It uses a completely different part of my brain. People have suggested I should do it on the side, but I would have to charge ridiculous amounts of money for the amount of time I spend. Also I suspect that if I did it all the time, it would likely lose appeal. 

    I discovered the love of cake decorating while I was undergoing chemotherapy and had a lot of time on my hands to think about things like birthday cake trains. Most of my close colleagues know that I am a breast cancer survivor, and some of my ISSCR colleagues know as well — my hair was just growing back for ISSCR in Toronto in 2011. Yes, I am very young for that kind of thing, thank you for noticing. 

    It will be 5 years clear this September, and it is because of early detection diagnostics and drugs such as tamoxifen that my outcome is so positive. The whole experience has been both professionally and personally enlightening. I know first hand the benefits of translational research, and I carry that perspective in my work. 

    I also learned during chemo how to fill days without work, and I apply that perspective in – amongst other things – those cakes. Maybe next year I will take up upholstery.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    I love the energy of the Toronto scientific community. There is a drive and a buzz that you can feel in the middle of the Discovery District, right in the heart of the city. 

    CCRM itself has been a tremendous learning opportunity, from a scientific, business and personal growth perspective. I get to interact with some of the greatest scientific minds in the field as well as many of the most prominent and accomplished business leaders in regenerative medicine. I also get to work daily with CCRM colleagues who are some of the most insightful, positive thinkers I have ever met.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    ISSCR as a society provides great online resources for the scientific community and the general public*. The annual meeting is wonderful for keeping a finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest of stem cell research, and keeping in touch will colleagues. It is also the meeting at which many of the companies launch their newest products, which is always exciting too.

    *[editor's note: please see the newly updated CloserLookatStemCells.org that helps patients and their families make informed decisions about stem cell treatments, clinics and their health.]
  • Member Spotlight on Ola Hermanson, PhD

    Hometown:
    Norrköping, Sweden

    Current Residence:
    Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden

    Graduate Degree:
    PhD in neurobiology, Linköping University, Sweden

    Postgrad work:
    University of California, San Diego (UCSD), La Jolla, CA, USA

    Current Position:
    Associate Professor, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden



    What is the current focus of your research?

    My long-term goal, more or less seriously, is to clone my own brain. Such a “silly” goal, however, results in a lot of serious questions, and our focus is to have an integrative approach to study neural development and cellular events such as differentiation, proliferation, death, senescence, autophagy, etc. through molecular events such as transcription and chromatin modifications. 

    After having defined quite specific roles for major transcriptional regulatory complexes in (cortical) neural stem cells, we are now linking well-characterized DNA-binding transcription factors in cortical development, such as Pax6 and FoxP2, to specific transcriptional complexes and chromatin modifying proteins. 

    We are further very interested in how such transcriptional regulation of differentiation and development is linked to microenvironment and metabolism, and we also include biomedical engineering in our studies – bioprinting, for example. 

    In an on-going study, we have identified a polymer, p-HTMI, that specifically detects stem cell-like cells in glioblastoma multiforme, and our current studies aim at elucidating the mechanisms underlying this as well as the possibility to develop this finding into a complementary tool in fluorescence-guided surgery of glioblastoma.

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

    I have no idea why I became a scientist, as my father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all fire chiefs, but I wanted to become a scientist all my life, and it is still my dream job. I got my first microscope when I was eight, put my father’s camera on it and photographed everything I could put on a microscope slide.

    After med school and a PhD in neuroanatomy, I went for postdoctoral training with Michael G. Rosenfeld at UCSD, and at the time, he had a collaboration with Ron McKay – then at NIH – so I got to learn the extremely efficient rat cortical neural stem cell system of the McKay lab. And we have used that until recently. Currently, almost all our experiments are on hiPSC-derived neural progenitors, but I still have a crush on the rat neural stem cell system. It is very versatile.

    How do you spend your free time?

    Like many scientists, I work and travel quite a lot, so when I have some true free time, I prefer spending it with my fiancé and her son on Södermalm, Stockholm [the southern island of Stockholm]. I am an old wannabe-hipster and love art galleries, unknown rock bands (and brag about them), coffee, good bread, craft beer, and good Scotch – and Södermalm happens to be just the right place in the world for that. Other places I love are of course San Diego but also Tokyo, London (UK), Vancouver, and Toronto, and I try always to have a trip booked to at least one of those places to look forward to.

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

    Not sure it is such a surprise anymore, but like many scientists, I have and have had a career in music. I ran my own record label and then became A&R at Polygram/Universal in Sweden, and signed a couple of quite successful bands, including the Cardigans that had a number one hit world-wide with Lovefool in 1997-98. 

    I also play in my own band, Sonic Surf City, and while not being as famous, we regularly tour Europe and other countries, and we did pursue a quite successful tour in Japan in summer 2014. I write the songs, so although the band rather looks like “a scientist backed up by the Ramones”, they can’t fire me yet, hehehehe… 

    I am very much into popular culture and have organized art shows, workshops, concerts, etc. all my adult life, and I like to learn what I like, so to speak. Thus, when I was into crosswords, I started making crosswords and could publish a few. And I love cartoons so I tried to learn that too. I got some published, but to my great sadness, I will never become that Pulitzer-awarded cartoonist I dreamt to become… I guess I have to stay with my music career for now at least.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    I love Södermalm. It has an extremely high quality of living with all the best restaurants, coffee shops, bars and museums just outside the door, and I have a hard time seeing myself living anywhere else in the world. 

    Karolinska Institutet is big, almost a bit too big for Sweden, but when it comes to specifically stem cell research and regenerative medicine, in parallel with a long tradition in neuroscience, cancer and biochemistry, it is one of the best research environments in the world. Very much thanks to people like Urban Lendahl, we have been successful in creating a truly synergistic atmosphere and considering our levels of grants and Stockholm being quite far from the “center of it all”, the level of publications and also in translational research to innovation and clinics, is outstanding. I am truly blessed to be part of this research environment.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    I have been an ISSCR member since almost the beginning. Since 6-7 years back, the annual meeting is the number one international conference for my lab. I find the resources on the homepage to be invaluable – for a while, I was the official “stem cell ombudsman” at Karolinska Institutet (now, if the stem cells need one, I’m there for them) and was bombarded with questions regarding international policies, definitions, and guidelines, and the ISSCR homepage* was then very helpful.

    I think it can develop even more, but along with the truly spectacular development of the annual meeting, I think ISSCR as a policy-making structure and a true participant in the extremely urgent and necessary discussions – for example regarding the balance of ethics and patient need – can make a true difference.

    *[editor's note: please see the newly updated CloserLookatStemCells.org that helps patients and their families make informed decisions about stem cell treatments, clinics and their health.]
  • Member Spotlight on Joshua M. Brickman, DJ, PhD

    Hometown:
    New York, NY, USA

    Current Residence:
    Copenhagan, Denmark

    Graduate Degrees:
    PhD, Biochemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

    Postgrad work:
    MRC National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK

    Current Position:
    Professor of Stem Cell and Developmental Biology, Danish Stem Cell Centre (DanStem), University of Copenhagen, Denmark



    What is the current focus of your research?

    My group seeks to understand the transcriptional basis for lineage choice in embryos and embryonic stem cells (ESC). As differentiation and ESC self-renewal are different sides of the same coin, we can be seen as working on both understanding differentiation and the factors that maintain ESC as pluripotent. For example, our recent work on signaling regulators in ESC and their interaction with networks of transcription factors, suggests these cells are maintained by inhibiting differentiation towards specific lineages. Our work has largely focused on the endoderm lineage, both the early extra-embryonic endoderm and the later definitive endoderm which will give rise to the liver, pancreas, lung and thyroid. We explore the networks downstream of transcription factors in early endoderm with an assortment of model systems ESCs and ESC differentiation, mouse models and Xenopus embryos.

    Our vision of physiological cell culture models (i.e. non transformed) is that they trap transition states in lineage specification. So how do we know what a transition state looks like? In enzyme kinetics these states only exist very fleetingly. However, they can be described by doing the crystal structure of enzyme bound to a non-catalyzable inhibitor. As that enzyme blocks catalysis, so does the culture system block progressions in lineage specification, giving us a window in the process of cell fate choice that may occur extremely rapidly in actual development or differentiation. Somehow cells get frozen in stasis and expand at the point where they are making decisions. Thus we showed that naïve ESCs resemble the blastocyst and contain a heterogeneous mix of functionally primed and interconverting cell types for the epiblast and endoderm lineages. Through manipulating signaling we can also establish stable transcriptional states in ESC that reflect different stages of pre-implantation development. We hope that by understanding the nature of these states we can understand the basis for cell fate choice in vivo. 

    We have also characterized the interface between signaling and transcription in differentiation. This work has increasingly been focused on how forces outside the cell, either the extra-cellular matrix or cell-cell contact influence the gene expression programs produced during differentiation. However, we have been able to use the same principles we have used with ESCs to develop cell culture systems to expand multi-potent progenitor cells from later in embryonic development in the developing endoderm.

    One theme to arise from our approach of using cell culture systems as models for lineage choice is that these systems have made available to us the capacity to do more quantitative biology and as such we have recently started a new center in Copenhagen for the interface between physics and stem cell biology - http://stemphys.nbi.ku.dk

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

    I think I had fantasies about being a scientist from my time in junior high school, but the real turning point came as a result of my high school biology teacher, Mrs Simon. She taught us about biology as an exciting, continually changing field populated by brilliant, charismatic and living scientist. I remember very vividly that she made the early molecular biologists into sports heroes for us. From this point on I was determined to become a scientist, although ironically it was nothing like a linear trajectory. I went to University and started with biology, then switch to chemistry, moved increasing towards physics, did a minor in philosophy, almost started a second minor in archeology. For all that motivation, I was a little lost. However, after a three year break, I ended up in a PhD program. 

    I did my PhD with Mark Ptashne, one of those molecular biologists I had read about in high school. I worked on basic mechanisms of transcription in yeast and mammals. Although this was a great time when we were trying to figure out how the black boxes of transcriptional activation (and repression) worked, I felt a need to explore these questions in a more biological context. So I went to Rosa Beddington’s laboratory. Rosa was a pioneer in early mouse development and she had just discovered a potential clue to how all mammals know how to distinguish between where to make their heads and tails. Work in her lab had uncovered a new anterior signaling centre in a little studied extra-embryonic endoderm lineage (visceral endoderm), previously thought to only play a support function in development. In Rosa’s lab in 1996, I needed an in vitro model that could be used for molecular biology that approximated the early embryo and extra-embryonic endoderm, and so I started working with ESCs. I honestly had no idea that stem cells would become a field in itself at the time, as this was before Dolly etc., it just seemed the right model to work with. 

    While I was in the laboratory, Rosa became very ill (and was to die tragically of complications relating to cancer, in 2001 at the age of 45). As one of the last things she did, she worked to sort out the futures of the people in her lab. For me she pushed me to what was to become the Institute for Stem Cell Research (at the time it was the Centre for Genome Research), at the University of Edinburgh. I established my own lab there in 2001, and in the next few years the field of stem cell research grew around us.

    How do you spend your free time?

    Mostly with my 11 year old daughter and my wife. We enjoy Copenhagen. We have been here for three years and love the city. We moved here and no longer have a car. It is liberating and we live in the centre of the city. We bike everywhere and have really enjoyed sampling all the culture this beautiful city has to offer.

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

    At the same time as I became interested in biology, I also became obsessed with becoming a DJ on college radio. I started DJing from my first year at college, became music director and then when faced with indecision at my future, I decided to take a few years off and work for the CMJ New Music Report, where I eventually became an associate editor and worked on our annual convention and MTV awards show. I then went on to briefly work for an indie record label, What Goes On, where I worked to promote band like the Celibate Riffles, Eastern Dark, Soul Asylum, and got a band called Bitch Magnet signed to our label. I eventually got bored with the music industry and realized it was time to go back and spent a year doing GREs, etc. I had a naïve idea that I could run a small indie record company while doing my PhD, something I rapidly realized was impossible, although I continued to DJ on WHRB through out most of my PhD.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    In 2011 most of my laboratory moved from Edinburgh to Copenhagen. It has been a fantastic experience. The Danish Stem Cell Centre (DanStem) was established by two grants, one from the Novo Nordisk foundation for basic stem cell biology and other from the Danish government for translational of these findings. As scientist who continues to be fascinated by these amazing cells (stem cells), how they act out their programs, chaotically and autonomously in a dish, and how these programs can be precisely orchestrated during embryonic development, DanStem is a fantastic place to be. We have managed to assemble Europe’s (and maybe the world’s) most concentrated grouping of people working on different aspects of endoderm. 

    In general the scientific environment in Copenhagen is in a very exciting growth phase. DanStem is located right next door to one of the world’s leading centre’s for Physics, the Niels Bohr Institute, and this has given fantastic opportunities to cultivate new and exciting interdisciplinary directions. The faculty of health sciences at Copenhagen has also embarked on the formation of a set of new centres, cultivating fantastic new international recruitments in the areas proteomics, cell cycle and DNA replication, metabolism and chromatin.  It is great to be in at the beginning of a great experiment in creating a new European center of excellence across so many fields in modern biology.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    I must admit, that in the beginning I was very skeptical about what I would get out of the ISSCR. I usually go to smaller conferences that are much more focused. However, much to my surprise, I have found that the interactions with the broader community that I get from the meetings have been very important to me. This year will be my third time at an ISSCR meeting and I think that I am now hooked.
  • Member Spotlight on Outi Hovatta, MD, PhD

    Hometown:
    Helsinki, Finland

    Current Residence:
    Stockholm, Sweden

    Graduate Degrees:
    MD, PhD at University of Helsinki

    Postgrad work:
    Imperial College, London, UK

    Current Position:
    Professor, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


    Editor’s note: Dr. Hovatta has been a member of the ISSCR Membership Committee since 2012.

    What is the current focus of your research?

    After working as an IVF gynecologist and scientist for many years – at first in Finland and then in Sweden – mainly focusing on cryo-preservation of gametes and ovarian and testicular tissues as fertility preservation options and maturing oocytes and ovarian follicles in vitro, I saw our unique possibilities in regenerative medicine. 

    Every day we had supernumerary human embryos from donors who already had their children. From those extra embryos, we were among the first in Europe to start making human embryonic stem cell lines (hESC), and now we have more than 60 such lines. To get them into the clinic was my ambition from the very beginning. 

    We managed to use human skin fibroblasts from the very beginning, and soon also from the use of fetal bovine serum. Then, we began to isolate the inner cell mass mechanically instead of using desired fetal bovine serum. In collaboration with Professor Karl Tryggvason at the Karolinska Institutet, we explored the natural niche in the extracellular matrix surrounding the cells in human embryos three days after in vitro fertilization. Karl and his group managed to produce these huge human proteins in human cells. These biologically active intact recombinant human laminins proved to allow outstanding culture conditions for derivation and propagation of hESC. We can now effectively work without feeder cells and without any animal-derived substances in the cultures.

    Now my team and I at the Karolinska Institutet are working on xeno-free, feeder cell-free differentiation of retinal pigment epithelial cells from hESC, and their functional testing. We are preparing for a clinical trial in treating the dry form of macular degeneration that is the most common loss of vision in the Western world. We are focusing on the immunogenicity of hESC-differentiated cells and manners to avoid rejection. There are many other disorders I hope we can, in collaboration with many other groups, use in curing severe diseases.

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

    I have had a desire to become a scientist since I was as a teenager. I would trek in the wild, often together with my father who was a professor at the Helsinki University of Technology, and I was fascinated by plants and birds. I desired to become a biologist, but my father heard from his friends that the research possibilities were better in the medical faculty, so I chose that field instead. I started my thesis work in reproductive medicine already as a medical student. 

    Clinical in vitro fertilization was a natural way forward at the time when it became possible. That made it possible to initiate stem cell work from the supernumerary embryos in Stockholm later on.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I still go out to the forest as often as I can, now frequently accompanied by my husband or my grown children or my small grandchildren. I row on the lakes for long distances, run, and cross-country ski while thinking a lot at the same time. 

    Nature photography is also one of my great interests. We have a cottage in Southern Finland next to a large nature park, and there we spend as much time as possible. But there are excellent opportunities also in the Southern suburban areas in Stockholm, close to the Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge campus where my laboratory is located.

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

    That I can move 20-30 km (12.5-18.5 miles) a day in the wild, and during that time gain a lot of understanding for scientific problems through focused thinking. Together with my family members, we also visit 4,000-6,000 m (13,125-19,700 ft.) high mountain summits, utilizing ice and rock climbing skills.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    I feel enthusiastic in finding new things, both in research and out in the wild, and listening to classical music. 

    But my family, my husband, two scientist daughters, one singer, and an economist son, and all my grandchildren give great happiness to my life.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    Continuous access to most recent stem cell research data.
  • Member Spotlight on Becky Tsai, PhD

    Hometown:
    Chino, CA, USA

    Current Residence:
    Pasadena, CA, USA

    Undergraduate Degrees:
    BA in Biology, Scripps College in Claremont, CA, USA

    Graduate Degree:
    PhD in Biomedical Sciences, University of California, Irvine

    Current Positions:
    CIRM Postdoctoral Scholar Laboratory of Ravi Bhatia, City of Hope National Medical Center; President/Chair of the City of Hope Postdoctoral Association; Advisory Chair of Crescendo Young Musicians Guild

    Editor’s note: Dr. Tsai was the winner of a member raffle at the 12th Annual Meeting in Vancouver. By visiting the ISSCR Central booth, her name was entered and randomly chosen to receive complimentary registration to ISSCR 2015. See us in Stockholm for a chance to win a local prize courtesy of the Stockholm Visitors Board or complimentary registration to ISSCR 2016.

    What is the current focus of your research?

    I am investigating the pathogenesis of therapy-related myelodysplasia( t-MDS). The t-MDS group in Dr. Ravi Bhatia’s laboratory have designed a prospective, longitudinal evaluation of lymphoma patients undergoing autologous HCT at the City of Hope National Medical Center. In addition to relevant clinical information and detailed therapeutic exposure data, blood and marrow samples are collected and banked (pre-aHCT and after treatment for up to 10 years). This study design allows for serial assessment of cellular and molecular abnormalities in hematopoietic cells over a period extending from genotoxic exposure to the development of t MDS.

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

    My affinity for research developed during my undergraduate studies in biology at Scripps College when I recognized that at the core of diseases is the loss of control over very intricate networks of molecular signals. Since then, I have been fascinated by the molecular mechanisms that contribute to tumorigenesis in the stem cell niche and the genetic markers that signal cancer development and progression. My long-standing interest lies in the development of tools that contribute to improving patient diagnosis and treatment.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I love podcasts and photography. I am inspired by the artistry in storytelling and the honesty and power of still photos. My playlist will always include "This American Life", “Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!", "The Moth", and "Hardcore History". I have been testing out several science podcasts and am happy to say that I’ve started to follow The Stem Cell Podcast [the official podcast of the ISSCR that focuses on providing fellow scientists up-to-date information on recent literature and trends].

    As a photographer, I am moved by images that tell a story. I have great admiration for many types of work from Ansel Adam’s magnificent landscapes to the raw portraits from Humans of New York. I miss the days when I had the time and access to develop my own black and white film shots. These days I get my photography fix by shooting weddings, concerts, or family events.

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

    Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a musician, I co-founded a non-profit youth music organization, Crescendo Young Musicians Guild (CYMG.org). I was inspired by some close friends – including the current president of CYMG, Pin Chen – to help close the gap that the Los Angeles school district left when art and music budgets were cut. The purpose of CYMG is to offer free and low-cost music classes for youth in the Los Angeles area and provide opportunities for them to perform for the community Music is a wonderful way for people of all ages to connect and communicate.

    Since I have always been interested in community outreach and have worked with local K-12 educators on science workshops, I knew the importance of this endeavor. Also, I think that music is often overlooked as a form of entertainment. It is truly a language of its own and a unique and important form of communication. 

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    I work, live, and commute along the beautiful foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. The beaches are a just a podcast away. The weather and view is as amazing as you imagine it to be in Southern California. City of Hope is an exceptional institution for translational research. Being a major cancer hospital as well as a research center, our patients remind us of the purpose of our research and inspire us to persevere for better diagnoses and treatments.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    I am proud of being a member of a community of researchers that gathers regularly to discuss critical issues of stem cell research and policies. ISSCR has provided a wonderful forum for networking and collaborations. ISSCR has been very supportive of young researchers and connecting them with the stem cell community. I was very impressed by the ISSCR Annual Meeting in Vancouver and the number of young investigators that were highlighted at the conference.
  • Member Spotlight on Steven Kattman, PhD

    Hometown:
    Evergreen, CO, USA

    Current Residence:
    Madison, WI, USA

    Graduate Degrees:
    Ph.D. Immunology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO, USA 

    Postgrad Work:
    Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY; University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada

    Current Positions:
    Senior Group Leader, Cellular Dynamics International, Inc. (CDI), Madison, WI, USA




    What is the current focus of your research?

    The current focus of my research is product and assay development of human iPSC-derived cell types. These human iPSC-derived cells are then used in drug discovery, toxicity testing, basic life science research and ultimately regenerative medicine. In order to achieve this we interrogate and harness the cellular and molecular mechanisms of developmental biology to differentiate the iPSCs toward the desired cell types and, importantly, with the appropriate functionality. In addition, we couple these developmental pathways to process optimization in order to achieve the yield and consistency necessary for product development. 

    For me, being able to apply my post-doc training in developmental biology into cell product development has been tremendously rewarding. Using pluripotent stem cells we can generate nearly pure cultures of relevant human cells that are transformative for the pharmaceutical industry and academic scientists alike. It is exciting to play a role in this quickly evolving field.

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

    I have always been interested in the natural sciences, however, I never considered it as a career path until during my undergraduate work where I had exposure to microbiology and immunology. This piqued my interest and led me to pursue a Ph.D. in immunology at the University of Colorado, studying T-cell development. 

    My intent for post-doc training was to study developmental biology in the laboratory of Gordon Keller. For this purpose, differentiation of embryonic stem cells was a terrific emerging model system. Initially we set out to isolate a mesoderm population that, during differentiation, could give rise to the hematopoietic lineages. To our surprise, once sorted and re-plated, our population of interest didn’t give rise to hematopoietic cells but did give rise to contracting monolayers of cardiomyocytes. A few adjustments in our hypothesis and the primary focus of my work was on cardiovascular development. 

    Career altering surprises like this are what keep me fascinated by stem cell research. Since that point, I have continued to work in the field of cardiovascular development and maintained a deep involvement in the exciting and ever-growing field of stem cell research.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I spend the majority of my free time enjoying life with my wife and two children. We try to take any opportunity for an adventure. We especially enjoy traveling to Chile, where my wife is from, to explore the amazing country (and escape the long Madison winters). The attached picture is my son and I on Villarrica volcano in Chile.

    In addition, I can be found cycling (mostly cyclocross), skiing and cooking.

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

    I am fascinated by sharks, especially prehistoric sharks. I have a collection of prehistoric shark teeth which track the evolution of large sharks from Otodus Obliquus to the Megalodon. These are displayed in my dining room and are good conversation pieces, especially given that the largest tooth is 5.5 inches long. 

    I started collecting because it gave me a tangible way to experience earth’s history through this remarkable animal. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good sites to find shark teeth where we are located now, although other marine fossils are abundant. So, I have to conduct my search for fossil teeth at rock shops and on Ebay. 

    I suppose this would be surprising because I have only lived near the ocean for a few years while in NYC.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    In regard to working at CDI, I primarily enjoy the teamwork required in a biotechnology company. I work with an extremely talented group of scientists, as well as business people, that stay focused on achieving common goals. 

    In regard to living in Madison, it is a great place to raise a family. In addition, Madison is a hidden gem for cycling. There are endless miles of beautiful rolling country roads and trails just outside of town.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    I think it is very important for the stem cell community to have a common forum to discuss research as well as policy, particularly as the field progresses toward translational medicine. The website and annual meeting help me stay abreast with the cutting edge research and trends in the field. 

    In addition, the annual meeting has always been a wonderful time to network as well as reunite with colleagues. 
  • Member Spotlight on Lygia V. Pereira, Ph.D.

    Hometown:
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Current Residence:
    São Paulo, Brazil

    Graduate Degrees:
    M.S. in Biophysics from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences (Human Genetics) from CUNY/Mount Sinai Graduate School, NY. 

    Postgrad Work:
    Human Genetics, University of São Paulo, Brazil

    Current Positions:
    Full Professor at the National Laboratory of Embryonic Stem Cells (LaNCE) Department of Genetics and Evolutionary Biology at University of São Paulo, Brazil




    What is the current focus of your research?

    My group has established lines of hESCs from the Brazilian population to (1) provide the cells for our cell therapy scientific community, and (2) to study X chromosome inactivation, an old research interest of my lab. 

    More recently, our main focus turned to the use of PSCs to study differential drug response in vitro. The Brazilian population is one of the most heterogeneous worldwide, a result of its history of colonization and five centuries of interethnic crosses among Europeans (mostly Portuguese), Africans and Amerindians. Our objective is to develop a library of hiPSC that represents the genetic heterogeneity of the Brazilian population to be used for in vitro studies of drug response and toxicity. We have collected primary cells from 2,000 participants of an ongoing multicenter cohort study (Brazilian Longitudinal Study of the Adult Health – www.elsa.org.br), and generated 22 lines of hiPSCs, 6 of which from individuals with resistant hypertension. We will collect primary cells from all 15,000 participants, and generate a proof-of-principle library of hiPSCs from hypertensive individuals responsive and resistant to pharmacological intervention. This expertise also allows us now to engage in the HaploBank project, and contribute with cells from our population.

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

    I don´t remember when I decided to become a scientist; it just happened. I guess it was basic curiosity and an excellent genetics teacher in high school. That did not turn me into a scientist, but it was enough to – during my undergraduate in Electric engineering – make me look more into what was generally called genetic engineering. Then, a very generous preceptor accepted me as a trainee in a lab that studied molecular biology of development in drosophila, and that experience made me shift my major to Physics (I have a B.S. in Physics), and eventually to pursue a Ph.D. in human molecular genetics.

    I started working with stem cells at the end of my Ph.D. at Mount Sinai, in NY, doing homologous recombination in ES cells to generate a mouse model for Marfan syndrome. At that time I saw ES cells just as a mean to get to the mouse model. Once back home, in 1996 I set up my own lab with a grant to establish the mouse-KO technology in Brazil. When human ESCs came along, our group had the most experience with pluripotent stem cells (although at that time I had no idea how different the human cells were from their mouse counterparts), and a few years later the Brazilian government started investing in regenerative medicine. So we got a grant to establish lines of hESCs (Jeanne Loring and her group were crucial to our success!). 

    Our own research interest was to study XCI in those lines, but we provided the cells and training to many groups in Brazil interested in their use in cell therapy. Four years ago we became interested in the use of these cells to predict drug response in vitro, and we have since developed the framework to generate the cell library. Our hypothesis is that cell-based assays will become very robust, and when that happens, we will have the Brazilian population in a dish for in vitro clinical trials.

    How do you spend your free time?

    I spend most of my free time with my family (husband and two daughters, 11 and 9), or playing squash. When I’m at the beach, I enjoy stand up paddleboarding. Although I am originally from Rio, I very much enjoy São Paulo´s cultural life and diversity of people.

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

    That I would give up my academic career for one on Broadway, singing in a Cole Porter or Gershwin musical. Actually, something smaller, like singing with a jazz band, would be enough. There is no risk of Brazil losing a stem cell scientist, though. I’ve been taking singing lessons on and off for years, basically just for fun, and I sing in an annual charity event. But this love for singing does not show at all in my professional life.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    Once I decided to go back to Brazil, I traded Ipanema for FAPESP – the São Paulo State Funding Agency. That is, I traded my hometown beaches for the consistent funding one finds in São Paulo. I enjoy the very professional way things are done here. Between FAPESP and USP (University of São Paulo), I think I have the best working conditions possible in Brazil. Although doing research here can be challenging (mostly because of bureaucracy and delays in getting reagents), I have a great feeling of making a difference; in establishing a legal framework for SC research, in science education, and in translating science to the general population. And, why not, in the research we do?

    As for living in São Paulo, five years in NYC prepared me to live in this very urban city and enjoy its diversity. I have met so many interesting people here, including my husband! 

    Why did you decide to go back to Brazil and when?

    At the end of my Ph.D., in 1994, I got a post-doc offer at Stanford, with [Professor of Genetics and of Pediatrics, Emerita] Uta Francke. By that time, I was away from Brazil for 5 years, and since I always thought of going back at some point, I decided to spend a few months at home in order to know the local state of the art, and plan my post-doc in the US so as to bring innovation back to my country. Those “few months” became 20 years now. Things turned out OK for me, but I do regret missing the Stanford experience.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    One thing is access to articles. Another thing I gain is the ability to interact with other researchers. The interaction with the scientists is a much richer experience than simply reading the articles. For example, the collaboration we established with [Founding Member of the Stem Cell Program in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE)] Lingzhao Cheng was paramount for our cell library project – and that is a relationship made through the ISSCR. 

    Also, being part of a larger SC community and participating in a forum where the different aspects of SC research are discussed is critical. The forum is very important for guiding us in developing, regulating and communicating stem cell research in Brazil.
  • Member Spotlight on Timothy Caulfield, LLM, FRSC, FCAHS

    Hometown:
    Cape Cod, MA, USA (but I think of Canada and Edmonton as home)

    Current Residence:
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

    Graduate Degrees:
    BSc; LLB (Alberta); LLM (Dalhousie) 

    Postgrad Work:
    Started my career as a research associate at the Health Law Institute!

    Current Positions:
    Canada Research Chair in Health Law & Policy;
    Trudeau Fellow and Professor, Faculty of Law and School of Public Health;
    Research Director, Health Law Institute, University of Alberta




    What is the current focus of your research?

    Our terrific team uses both empirical and conceptual approaches to explore the policy challenges associated with stem cell research. We have analyzed how best to regulate the field and the social forces that have shaped the policy debates using a range of methodologies, from traditional legal methods, to structure interviews and surveys, to systematic media analysis. And our team reflects this breadth. Our work is very international in scope. Indeed, that is one of the great assets of working with the ISSCR. We have, for example, a linguist, a qualitative research, a science and technology expert and, of course, legal scholars. It is a great team.

    We are currently doing a good deal of research on the marketing of unproven stem cell therapies, including an exploration of the scope, nature and drivers of this challenging problem.

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

    When I was in law school, I had the opportunity to do research in the area of health law. I fell in love with both the interdisciplinary quality of the issues and working with the scientific community. Few areas hold as much promise as stem cell research, but it also raises unique and profound ethical and legal dilemmas. From the perspective of science policy research, it is the perfect area to work in! 

    How do you spend your free time?

    Do people have free time? When this rare commodity does appear in my life, it is filled with cycling (preferably sprinting on a velodrome), movies, books, music and family.

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

    I have a severe problem with motion sickness, which is not a great trait for someone who travels. In fact, my fear of getting sick is one of the reasons I abandoned my (sad) attempt at a career as a rock musician. I couldn’t handle the long drives between gigs so I stayed in university! Thank you, nausea.

    Feel free to share more on the abandoned rock career.

    I had a reasonable "career" in music (and have the bad ears to prove it). One of my bands opened for The Ramones. The New Wave band I was in during the ‘80s had a "record" (yep, real vinyl) release on Much Music (Canada's MTV) and a terrifyingly cheesy video. I always joke that if I had a bit more success I'd be working in a record shop now. Someone (no idea who) recently posted version a one of our New Wave singles, Love and Work (lame ref to Freud), on YouTube. Cringe. You must picture me in skintight leather and Flock of Seagulls hair.

    What do you like most about living and working where you do?

    The University of Alberta has been extremely supportive of our research. It has a rich and dynamic research environment. And Edmonton is an ideal place to raise a family. True, the winters can be extreme. But a few days of blinding snow and minus 40 Celsius keeps the mind sharp! Plus, believe it or not, Edmonton has the world’s best coffee shops.

    What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

    The ISSCR has been tremendously important to my career and research. It has allowed me to work with – and build collaborations with – scientists from throughout the world. These linkages are invaluable to interdisciplinary research. It has also allowed me to be involved in international policy debates.
  • Member Spotlight on Jose Polo, PhD

    Hometown:
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Current Residence:
    Melbourne, Australia

    Graduate Degree:
    Biochemistry from University of Buenos Aires, Argentina; PhD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY, USA. 

    Postdoc Work:
    Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University

    Current Positions:
    Associate Professor at the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology and the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Monash University.

    Chief Investigator at Stem Cells Australia




    What is the current focus of your research?

    I trained in classic biochemistry (proteins, enzimology, more proteins). Then, during my PhD, I became familiar with transcription factor biology, epigenetics and a fairamount of bioinformatics, all these in the context of lymphomagenesis and B-cellmaturation. During my postdoc I was trained in stem cell biology and reprogramming.Thus, I feel equally comfortable in the haematology and stem cell fields. Experimentally, I guess that my areas of expertise are biochemistry, epigentics and genome wide data analysis. Currently my lab is working in different aspects of the reprogramming process, adult stem cells and blood malignancies. However, even though these may sound like different things, indeed in all the cases, we study the same underlying question: What molecularly defines the identity of a cell and how we can control this? 

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

    Since I can remember I always liked natural science. As a kid I was looking for bugs, playing with the “chemistry boxes” etc. But I guess the event that shaped my interest in “biology” was getting my grandfather’s microscope when I was about 12 years old. I used to put everything under that microscope, including blood I used to get from endlessly pricking my mother’s finger. As an undergraduate, I studied biochemistry, which in Argentina encompassed basic chemical biology and clinical analysis. I always knew I was going to do a PhD after that.

    How did I get into stem cells? Actually, when I was looking for a postdoc, I wanted to study the biochemistry behind cell fate. At that time I was thinking in differentiation, malignant transformation or reprogramming. I was in Boston doing some interviews (not in stem cells) and I had dinner with my friend Matthias Stadfeldt, who had been my classmate at Albert Einstein. Matthias was doing his postdoc with Konrad Hochedlinger and told me how exciting it was working in Konrad’s lab and that I should at least meet him. So I met him and now here I am.

    How do you spend your free time?

    What is that? Actually I enjoy being with my family, my wife Tania and my two beautiful twins: Catalina and Felipe. At the moment we are renovating our house, which keeps us very busy.

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

    Before starting university I was between philosophy and biochemistry, but finally chose biochemistry. However in my second year, I dropped biochemistry to study philosophy, but a trip to Japan and the U.S. a couple of months later made me realise that indeed my heart was still in biochemistry. So who knows, maybe one day... 

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

    We live in a beautiful spot of Melbourne called the Mornington Peninsula where we enjoy going around the beach and beautiful hills (full of wineries, parks, animals, etc.) about 5 minutes from my house. We also love the fact that my wife’s family is nearby. 

    Working in Australia has been great; I really like the sense of community and collaboration across different groups from the same or different institutes. The stem cell community in Australia has received me with open arms and very rapidly made me feel part of them. Finally, working at Monash University has been a great experience with outstanding support, excellent lab members, colleagues and mentors.

    Actually, if someone one wants to see how the stem cell field in Australia is, we are having our annual meeting in November, just a few days after the ISSCR Regional Forum in Singapore. So why not to travel to both meetings?

    What do you gain from your ISSCR membership?

    First of all I think having a forum that can group researchers from the same field is important. 

    In the particular case of ISSCR, I really like the fact that the board of directors, president etc, are the leaders in our field, which I believe gives the society a strong voice when necessary. On this note, I believe this is a critical time in our field due to the translational potential of our research. Therefore, this moment in time and the time to come is going to be very important for our field on how we communicate the science and manage the expectation of the community, so having such a professional and highly regarded society will be important. From a personal and practical point of view, it is very useful for me to be able to see oral presentations of past conferences as well as special seminars on the web [on ISSCR Connect].

    Congratulations on receiving one of the inaugural Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia. What does the recognition mean to you?

    Thanks, receiving the award was very special for me and I guess that it means different things. In principle it means the leaders in the Australian stem cell community believe in me, value what I have done so far, and value my contribution to Australian science in general.

  • 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.
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