Member Spotlights


Kazuo Takayama, PhD

Nov 9, 2020

Hometown: Kobe, Japan
Current residence: Kyoto, Japan
Graduate degree: PhD
Current position: Junior Associate Professor, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University, Japan

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

I have been working at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) in Japan as a principal investigator since March 2020. This coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. CiRA shifted some its resources to work on the development of a therapeutic drug for COVID-19. Because I have researched various viruses in the past, I started SARS-CoV-2 research. We generated human bronchial organoids and are now trying to develop a COVID-19 therapeutic drug. Obviously, a COVID-19 drug could change the world greatly. It is reasons like this that make me feel my research is worthwhile.

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

My father is also a researcher, so I aimed to become a researcher. My father is a mathematician and is still continuing his research activities. I can't understand mathematics papers at all, but I am impressed with my father's devotion to his work. When my father worked in the US, we lived in Ithaca, NY, and Berkeley, CA. I think working in an international environment is one of the attractions of being a researcher.

My interest in stem cell research came from reading about the discovery of iPS cells in the news. Their potential for drug discovery and regenerative medicine is great, and Japan has devoted a lot of resources to this research. I eventually took interest in organ regeneration using stem cells, including iPS cells. I am now enjoying stem cell research as a member of CiRA.

What is the most exciting aspect of your work?

I have developed a novel method for differentiating stem cells. When stem cells differentiate into somatic cells, the cell morphology changes significantly. For example, cells that have multiple nuclei or cilia can be observed differentiating into hepatocytes or bronchial epithelial cells, respectively. It is exciting to observe such dynamic changes in cell morphology. I am currently working as a PI at CiRA. I have much to learn about the process of deciding which research areas to challenge, securing staff and budgets, and validating ideas.

What guidance would you share in talking with trainees interested in pursuing your area of research?

Enjoy your research! Research that cannot be enjoyed is difficult to continue. If the current situation is difficult, it is important to change the research theme or the laboratory. When choosing a lab, I think you should choose a mentor who enjoys her/his research.

Do you have any mentors or individuals who have inspired you in your stem cell work?

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka: The papers that established iPS cells have a great impact on my career.

Dr. Karl Deisseroth: His work is very exciting. I always enjoy reading his papers.

How do you spend your free time?

I just started up my lab, so I don't have much free time yet. I love going to dinner with my friends. I like being with people who are passionate about their work. I used to run marathons when I was a graduate student, and I hope to resume soon as CiRA has many people who like marathons.

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

I spend a lot of time in the lab. I sometimes stay a night at the laboratory. I know the CiRA shower room well. I learned the violin for about 10 years as a child, so I can play the violin.

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

It is very valuable to interact with many researchers and get useful information at ISSCR annual meetings. I look forward to attending the annual meeting next year in Hamburg. Recently, COVID-19 Networking Meetings have been held weekly and I look forward to participating.


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Careers in Industry

Career talks featured at ISSCR’s VISION2030 event, focused on opportunities for a decade ahead. 

BlueRock Therapeutics | Career Talks

Panel discussion with Timsi Rao, Scientist III, Genome Sciences and Stephany Sakharny, Senior Human Resources Manager of BlueRock Therapeutics.

STEMCELL Technologies | Career Talks

Panel discussion with Christine Genge, Manager, Recruitment and Nina Quiskamp, Scientist of STEMCELL Technologies.

ElevateBio | Career Talks

Panel discussion with Cherylene Plewa, PhD, VP, Cellular Engineering and Austin Thiel, PhD, Director Stem Cell Biology of ElevateBio.

ISSCR 2020 Virtual Videos

Junior Investigator Career Panel

Finding Your Fit: Defining Goals and Taking Action to Achieve Long-term

Moderator: Evan Graham, ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee, CELLINK
Panelists: Heather Duffy, Creative Innovation Consulting, Steve Kattman, Sana Biotechnology, Danijela Menicanin, University of Adelaide, and Itedale Namro Redwan, CELLINK.

Despite how it can sometimes appear, the path to a satisfying career is rarely straightforward. Are you currently asking yourself “How do I decide on a career path?” If so, join us for an in-depth panel discussion about how individual definitions for success and failure can help you identify your goals, adjust to setbacks, determine when it’s time to make a change, and what steps to take now to achieve your long-term goals. This casual event hosted by the Junior Investigator Committee is intended to foster frank conversation about how to assess career decisions early on.

Early Career Group Leader Panel

Re-Defining the Success of Your Lab in Changing Times: Productivity, Motivation and Enrichment

Moderator: Josh Currie, Co-chair, ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee, Wake Forest University
Panelists: Valentina Greco, Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale Medical School, Konrad Hochedlinger, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Joanna Wysocka, Stanford University.

Even prior to lab shutdowns, you might have often been awake at night feeling anxious about the success of your trainees and your projects. With bench research and much of science at a standstill, how can PIs regain perspective and purpose to re-define a thriving lab? This event is organized for early career PIs to learn tools and tips from more senior ISSCR scientists about how to get the most out of your lab. We will address topics such as setting up a strong lab culture from the beginning, enriching the lab experience to make your team the most productive, and recruiting the best people to improve motivation and promote strong research. Additionally, this event is meant to foster conversation about how to support, motivate, and train lab members under these exceptional circumstances. Come join us to learn, share, and discuss different recipes for a successful lab.