Recommended weekend science links

snuppyWoo-Suk Hwang & his dog clones…all started with Snuppy (pictured): Disgraced Scientist Clones Dogs, And Critics Question His Intent

Human gene editing summit under the microscope of Hurlbut, et al. CRISPR Democracy: Gene Editing and the Need for Inclusive Deliberation

New CRISPR partner protein Slices through Genomes, Patent Problems

For anyone who grows human pluripotent stem cells: What if stem cells turn into embryos in a dish?

Good stem cell news: no cancer evident in first IPSC transplant patient.

Based on his lengthy public comment on the article on PubMed, stem cell scientist Jacob Hanna isn’t too happy about the recent Nature review (related to STAP cell refutation) on hallmarks of pluripotency.

Speaking of STAP refutation, Takaho Endo correctly pointed out that his paper last year used similar methods to the new Nature BCA papers that provided more STAP refutation and yet one of those new papers didn’t even cite his. He tweeted about how when he contacted the authors to inquire about this that they said they had originally cited his paper, but ended up leaving it off due to restrictions on the # of citations allowed. That seems very regrettable.

Could stem cells treat or even cure some forms of blindness?

List of Speakers for NAS Meeting on Human Gene Editing

Who will be speaking at the upcoming National Academy of Sciences (NAS) meeting on human gene editing? So far we haven’t known, but now we do (if you are eager to find out, skip to bottom of the post).

The organizers of the meeting can be found here. Keep in mind that it is probable that some of these organizers, even if not listed below at the bottom of this post, will be present as well.

The meeting starts two months from today on December 1.

NAS gene editing

The summit has major importance as a global forum for discussing the many complex issues surrounding human genetic modification. As a result, the identities of the invited speakers who are attending will give a valuable sense of the spectrum of backgrounds and views that will be represented at the meeting.

A source has provided me with an organizational email to the confirmed speakers and moderators for the NAS meeting, from which I created the preliminary list below of likely participants. The caveats are (1) that this list may change and (2) I might have inferred some attendees’ names incorrectly based on a misinterpretation of email addresses. In other words, don’t hold me precisely to this list, but it should be pretty accurate.

What does this list tell us about the meeting? I’m still cogitating on it myself. What do you think?

I would note that of the 39 participants on this preliminary list, only 11 are women while 28 are men. In addition, amongst American participants there definitely seems to be an overrepresentation of people from East Coast “elite” institutions. Does that matter? More broadly does this list reflect a healthy amount of diversity?

It’s unclear at this time how many members of the public will be able to attend based on space, how those members of the public will be chosen, and how much they will be able to actively participate. The in-person presence and participation of members of the public are crucial for democratic deliberation on this pivotal issue.

I’m excited to be attending the meeting as a blogger. My goal is to provide as much information right here on this blog in as timely a manner as possible, hopefully as the meeting actually unfolds, to facilitate transparency and public understanding.

Here are the anticipated participants with title and affiliation listed in alphabetical order based on the information that I was provided:

  • Alta Charo (Professor, Univ. of Wisconsin Law)
  • Annelien Bredenoord (Professor Public Health, Univ. Med Center Utrecht)
  • Azim Surani (Professor, Gurdon Institute)
  • Barbara Evans (Professor, University of Houston Law)
  • Bill Skarnes (Senior Group Leader, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)
  • Chad Cowan (Professor, Harvard)
  • Daniel Kevles (American historian of science, Yale)
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier (Professor, Max Planck Society)
  • Eric Lander (Professor, MIT)
  • Feng Zhang (Professor, MIT)
  • Fyodor Urnov (Team Leader, Sangamo)
  • Gary Marchant (Professor of Law, Arizona State)
  • George Church (Professor, Harvard)
  • George Daley (Professor, Harvard)
  • Indira Nath (Professor Indian National Science Academy)
  • Ismail Serageldin (Director, Bibliotheca Alexandrina)
  • Keith Joung (Professor, Harvard, Genome Editing)
  • Janet Rossant (Professor, The Hospital for Sick Children)
  • Jennifer Doudna (Professor, UC Berkeley)
  • Jennifer Merchant (Professor, Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II)
  • John Harris (Professor of Bioethics, University of Manchester)
  • Jonathan Kimmelman (Professor Bioethics, McGill)
  • Jonathan Weissman (Professor, UCSF)
  • Klaus Rajewsky (Professor, Max Delbrock Center)
  • Kyle Orwig (Associate Professor, Magee Research Institute)
  • Marco Weinberg (Assistant Professor, Scripps)
  • Marcy Darnovsky (Executive Director, Center for Genetics and Society)
  • Matthew Porteus (Associate Professor, Stanford)
  • Peter Braude (Professor, King’s College London)
  • Philip Campbell (Editor-in-Chief, Nature)
  • Richard Gold (Professor, McGill)
  • Robin Lovell-Badge (Professor, Francis Crick Institute)
  • Ruha Benjamin (Professor, Princeton)
  • Sharon Terry (Health Advocate, Genetic Alliance CEO)
  • Thomas Reiss (Head of Competence Center Emerging Tech bei Fraunhofer ISI)
  • Weizhi Ji  (Director, Kunming Institute of Zoology)
  • 周琪 Zhou Qi (Professor, Chinese Academy of Science)
  • 李劲松 Li Jinsong (Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • 石井 哲也 Tetsuya ISHII (Professor Bioethics, Hokkaido University)

Stem Cell Person of the Year Award 2015: Nominations Open

stem cell logoIt’s time for the 4th annual Stem Cell Person of the Year Award process to start.

Please send me your nominations for the person you think had the biggest positive impact in the stem cell and regenerative medicine world in 2015.

This award is unique in a number of ways. For example, anyone in the world is eligible to be nominated: both scientists and non-scientists alike. The nominee should also be someone who thought outside the box and took risks, which are novel areas of emphasis for this stem cell and regenerative medicine award.

Another special element is that the finalists are chosen from the nominees via an Internet vote by you, the readers of this blog. From the finalists I will choose the winner, who will receive recognition for their global leadership and innovation as well as a $2,000 cash prize that I pay myself.

Submit your nominations by Oct. 13 via email to me: [email protected]

On Oct. 14, Stem Cell Awareness Day, I will announce the nominees. The Internet vote will begin soon after that.

Past winners of the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award include some amazing difference makers.

Dr. Masayo Takahashi won in 2014 and this year also received the inaugural Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize.

Dr. Elena Cattaneo received the award in 2013 and went on to get the ISSCR Public Service Award in 2014 along with colleagues.

In 2012 the winner was top stem cell patient advocate Roman Reed, who went on in 2013 to receive the GPI Stem Cell Inspiration Award.

Who deserves this year’s Stem Cell Person of the Year Award as the most impactful, innovative person in the world of stem cells? Let me know via your nominations.

New UK trial & Ocata give reason for stem cell hope on vision impairment

Peter Coffey Lyndon Da Cruz

Image from Catapult

We’ve been hearing a lot this week about an important new clinical study for macular degeneration in the UK. This team is using retinal pigmented epithelial cells (RPEs) made from embryonic stem cells (ESC). They are now testing safety.

The new work in the UK is Moorfields Eye Hospital is a great addition to the growing list of stem cell clinical studies and provides real hope for those dealing with macular degeneration.

In their PR on the study, part of the  London Project to Cure Blindness this is rightly described as a “major milestone” for the project. The co-leaders, Peter Coffey and surgeon Lyndon Da Cruz (pictured above), will guide this work.Pfizer is also part of the team for this study. I’m curious to see how it progresses and hopeful on the outcome. 

There’s real reason for excitement in this area more broadly and that context is important to include, but many newspaper articles haven’t.

For instance, Ocata Therapeutics is doing very similar clinical work and is already years into its FDA-approved clinical trials for macular degeneration using RPEs made from ESC. So far that work has proceeded really well without safety concerns and with hints of efficacy. Also the clinical study in Japan for macular degeneration using IPS cells, while at present on hold, will likely start up again in a new iteration later this year or more likely in early 2016.

Disclosure: I have a very small, long-term position in Ocata stock.

Lorenz Studer named 2015 MacArthur Fellow for stem cell work

The annual selection of MacArthur Fellows highlights creative leaders in a variety of fields. The fellows receive $625,000 with no strings attached.

Stem cell biologists have been selected on a regular basis over the years as MacArthur Fellows including Kevin Eggan (2006), Sally Temple (2008), and Yukiko Yamashita (2011).

This year’s group of two-dozen 2015 MacArthur Fellows includes stem cell biologist Lorenz Studer (see video above). You can learn much more about Dr. Studer’s work on his lab’s home page here.

Lorenz Studer

Screenshot from MacArthur video

The announcement highlights Studer’s work on creating dopaminergic neurons (the type lost in Parkinson’s Disease) from stem cells including in particular from IPS cells, and broader implications of his work to neuro conditions:

“Lorenz Studer is a stem cell biologist pioneering a new method for large-scale generation of dopaminergic neurons that could provide one of the first treatments for Parkinson’s disease and prove the broader feasibility of stem cell–based therapies for other neurological disorders.”

Big congrats to Dr. Studer!

This is good news for the overall stem cell field as well.