Knoepfler Blog Stem Cell Person of the Year Finalists: time to vote

I’m giving out a Stem Cell Person of the Year award for 2012 along with all my other annual awards (e.g. best stem cell journal, paper, blog, comic, activist, etc).

The Person of the Year winner will get recognition for being a difference maker, someone who takes a risk to help others.   

The winner also gets $1000 in cash from me.  

About 30 people have been nominated, consisting of a truly amazing group of people. Many of them were nominated independently more than once for this award. I originally said I was going to list the top 5 finalists, but I decided to list the top 16 (~half of total nominees) since they are all so awesome. Scroll down below the poll to see information on each nominee. 

Ultimately I will choose the winner, but your votes (see poll below) could have important influence, especially in the case of a tie-breaker situation where I might have trouble picking between a few outstanding candidates. Given the stellar group of nominees the likelihood of this happening is not so small.

So please vote and tell your supporters to vote.

The voting deadline is 11:59PM December 31.

Listed below in alphabetical order by first name (I’m a very fortunate person to know most of these folks personally) are the finalists along with my short introduction of them to you including paraphrasing or actual quotes from nominators:

  • Alexey Bersenev. Alexey is a self-described “Cell trialist”, who amongst other things runs the fabulous stem cell assays blog. Alexey makes a difference through at least in part amazing educational outreach. Nominator: “He is arguably the most educated person I know about cell therapies from essentially every angle and is very helpful in educating others”. He calls it like he sees it.
  • Bernard Siegel. Bernie is the head of GPI and Stem Cell Action. He is the organizer of the annual World Stem Cell Summit. He is the tireless engine that drives stem cell advocacy and accountability. It’s hard to imagine the stem cell community today without Bernie’s contributions over the years including this year.
  • Don Reed. Don is a long-time stem cell advocate (blog here) who has inspired and empowered a whole generation of stem cell advocates. His nominator said of Don “He never ever stops working for stem cell research and advocacy.”  Here is an interview published with Don, who played a key role in Prop. 71 and the creation of CIRM. On Twitter, Don describes himself thusly: “sponsored California’s Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, board of directors for Prop 71, Vice President for the Americans for Cures Foundation.”
  • Doug Sipp. Doug is someone whose actions make a huge difference in protecting patients and promoting accountability in the stem cell field. Nominator says: “More than anyone else, I think, he has taken fire for so many others in the stem cell advocacy arena, and yet doesn’t make a big deal out of it.” Doug’s work includes, but goes well beyond his blog.
  • Jeanne Loring. Jeanne is both a great stem cell researcher (see her lab page here) and also an educator. She is the Founding Director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. For years Jeanne has made herself available as an advocate, going beyond the lab to make an impact in multiple ways. Nominator: “Jeanne is an exceptional scientist who takes that step outside the lab to engage the wider community in powerful ways.”
  • Judy Roberson. Judy is a Huntington’s Disease advocate who, as described by nominator, “has positive spirit and energy beyond anyone I know.” She is the President of the Northern California Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. She makes amazing things happen and I believe has contributed in tremendous ways to bringing transformative funding to research into Huntington’s Disease. Here is a radio interview with Judy that tells you so much about her efforts.
  • Katie Sharify. Katie is a hero and inspiration to so many. She is a participant in the Geron hESC-based clinical trial for spinal cord injury and a patient advocate. Katie is that rare person who has the courage to tell her story and inspire others. One way she does this is through YouTube Videos (e.g. here and an interview with CIRM here) . Nominator: “She really connects with people in a special way that makes a difference.”
  • Keri Kimler. Keri is a long-time stem cell advocate. She is a passionate worker for advancing stem cell research. Keri is the founder of Texas Cures Education Foundation. She is currently the Director of Constituent Relations at Texas Heart Institute and is former Vice Chair of Texans For Stem Cell Research . Keri also runs a great website on stem cells. Nominator says “Keri is someone who, in sometimes hostile territory, makes practical, positive things happen. She talks the talk, but also walks the walk.”
  • Lee Buckler . Lee describes himself on Twitter as “Blogger, analyst, consultant, and entrepreneur in the cell therapy & cell-based regenerative medicine industry.” Nominator: “Talk about your Renaissance Man, huh? Lee should include on there ‘educator’ because he is mindbogglingly informed about every aspect of the stem cell/cellular medicine industry.” He’s also quietly (although less quietly nowadays) working to help educate others including through his blog.
  • Leigh Turner . Leigh (pronounced “Lee”) is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota in their ethics center. On Twitter he describes himself as “Prof of Bioethics & Public Health; Interests include bioethics, global health, medical tourism, organ trafficking, health fraud, patient safety”. Nominator: “In the midst of an intimidating environment, Leigh took the revolutionary step of being a scientist asking the FDA publicly to look into a company that he felt was putting patients at risk.”
  • Mary Schneider. Mary is a long-time stem cell advocate who interfaces with politicians at the very top to make a difference. She has worked very hard specifically as a patient advocate for children to promote safe and effective therapies for children. I asked Mary about this and she wrote that her goal is: “that other children may some day have the gift of good health and opportunities that my son was blessed with.  I knew from the very beginning of the journey to help my child that the other children who were afflicted were equally as important and no matter what the outcome was for my child, I would never stop advocating to help the others.  I’ve kept my promise and the hard work is paying off in ways that I could never have imagined.” You can learn more about Mary’s great work here.
  • Roman Reed. Roman is a long-time spinal cord injury (SCI) research and stem cell research advocate (see his foundation here). Roman goes beyond educating others to make tangbile things happen. The SCI research act named after him in California funded groundbreaking research into SCI that was crucial for laying the foundation for Geron’s work. This year, through a lot of hard work as part of a stellar team, he helped get the TJ Atchison SCI Research Act passed in Alabama. Nominator says: “Working to make that a reality in a ‘red’ state is a great achievement.”
  • Sabrina Cohen
. Sabrina is a long-time stem cell and SCI advocate. She is the founder of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, which does amazing things such as raising awareness through lecture series and funding of SCI research. Sabrina is a high-profile advocate who extends our community’s messages to an incredibly important, larger audience. Nominator: ” she’s given around 20,000 motivational talks, mentored hundreds of the newly disabled, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for health-related cause, which includes $75,000 in medical grants directly to the nation’s s leading stem cell researchers.”
  • Stephen Sullivan.  Stephen is the founder and Director of the Irish Stem Cell Foundation. He is one of the few scientists who is also an advocate, which is very admirable. Stephen is another one of those people who works tirelessly to make the stem cell arena a better place and safer for patients, but without claiming a lot of media attention for himself. No self-promotion there. Nominator: “He works in a hostile environment with opponent groups going after scientists and stem cell advocates personally and by name, but maintains a positive outlook.”
  • TJ Atchison. Nominator: “TJ is an inspiration and hero”. He suffered a SCI and became the first ever hESC-based clinical trial participant. He worked to make The TJ Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Research Program a reality via the TJ Atchison SCI Research Act. Nominator: “The impact of this new effort will be tremendous”.
  • Ted Harada. Ted was one of the patients in NeuralStem ALS trial and had a striking response. He describes himself on Twitter as follows: “Husband, Father of 3, ALS Patient & Advocate, politics & sports junkie and (hopefully) Catholic Gentlemen”. Nominator: “He became a vocal advocate for stem cell trials in ALS community.” You can read more about Ted here on CNN Health.

Some important notes. I note that CIRM as well as Drs. Ellen G. Feigal and Patricia Olson of CIRM were nominated and I believe are deserving of tremendous recognition, but I do not list them in my dozen finalists because as a CIRM grantee myself I feel there would be a conflict of interest for me. But they are wonderful!

President Obama was also nominated, but I frankly think he hasn’t done quite enough on the stem cell front yet. I do have hopes for his second term.

68 thoughts on “Knoepfler Blog Stem Cell Person of the Year Finalists: time to vote


    • I 100% support Katie Sharify. She is brave, young woman and has inspired so many with her story. She does patient advocacy, participated in a stem cell trial and deserves to be recognized for her strength.


  1. Judy has done more for the HD community in terms of organizing and funding than any other person. She was President of HDSA No. CA, she founded the UC Davis Center of Excellence and she almost single-handedly secured a $19M grant from CIRM for HD trials. She is amazing and certainly deserves the award!


  2. Judy is a courageous and tireless advocate that I am proud to call a friend in the battle against Huntington’s disease. She has worked long hard years for stem cell research. LaVonne Goodman


  3. Paul,
    If there is a way to write in for a nomination, I would like to vote for you- Dr. Paul Knoepfler, who has probably done more than anyone in 2012 to create a community here on this blog for the people interested in Stem Cell sciences.
    You have been extremely active to keep us informed both on the science and the hoaksters and have done so with an even keel and open mind. As you know I don’t always agree with you, but I still respect your opinion and background in the field.
    This blog has matured as time has progressed and in turn, your stock in the community has grown as well.
    Thanks for all you do!


  4. While being a full time caregiver for 11 years to her husband with HD and raising 4 kids, Judy dedicated all of her time to the HD community. After her husband died and her kids grew up, she has dedicated 100% of her time to HD research and finding a cure! She is incredibly passionate about stem cell research and feels they are our only hope for a cure not only for HD but for many other diseases! She will no doubt continue to fight for stem cell funding for the rest of her life.


  5. Judy Roberson, RN, has been involved in leadership and advocacy for Huntington’s Disease families for many years. She has turned her pain and suffering into hope. She assisted in opening the Huntington’s clinic at the University of California at Davis which eventually became an HSG clinical research site and an HDSA Center of Excellence. Judy also got
    services for HD families funded by the state legislature and
    persuaded the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to fund stem cell research for Huntington’s Disease. Judy, like Margaret Mead, believes a small group of people can change the world. Judy has already changed the world and will continue to do so. :-)


  6. I went to high school with Ted, and he was a great guy back then. He has turned into a dedicated individual who is the best possible man he can be for his wife, children, friends, and anyone who needs his assistance. He’s brave, and inspirational and I would love for him to help further history to help solve the ALS mystery by being honored here. He even plans to use your honorarium directly to benefit ALS. In his own words: “If I am fortunate enough to win I promise to donate half a the money to Dr. Glass’ ALS research lab and utilize the other half for my trip to DC in May in order to advocate for all ALS patients.” That’s the Ted I remember from when we were kids!!


  7. Ted is a wonderful individual who will stop at nothing to help find a cure for ALS. He is also a friend to us and to all. Even having ALS he is always there for anyone who might need help he does not know the word quit.


  8. I vote for Judy Roberson, RN. She was a big help to me when I was caring for my wife suffering from Huntington’s Disease. She is a strong voice for all of us in the “Huntington’s Disease Community”.


  9. I vote for Sabrina Cohen. I have had the immense pleasure of working with her for the cause, and I can honestly say I have yet to meet someone as inspirational and hard-working as her in my life. She is a beautiful and incredible woman, and I am positive that she will continue to accomplish amazing things throughout the rest of her life.


  10. It is line up of awesome people who have all done a lot. Thanks for highlighting each one because all the contributors are worthy . I am thankful for the privilege of meeting many of them online or face to face. They were and are the bright lining that has come out of some significant stem cell negatives. It is wonderful to see the light shine!


  11. I voted for Leigh Turner because I feel very strongly our leaders in this new frontier need to consider all the variables and THINK before charging forward. Each action has a consequence and from what I have read Leigh is assessing these consequences. I also have a guttural attachment to anyone willing to put aside there own personal gain and stand up for what is right. Too many of our leaders fail to do so, and there is too much back-scratching going on for any of our advancements to truly help our world at large. Mr. Turner seems to have a set of values and morals often forgotten at the expense of all of us.


  12. I vote for Katie Sharify! She’s one brave woman and has turned trauma into hope for so many people she may never even meet later in life. Her honesty and vulnerability is something to be admired.


  13. Definitely Katie Sharify, since she is so brave to be the the world’s first ever human that stem cell has been tried on. this helps a lot on improvement of the research.


  14. I am most pleased to have the opportunity to vote for Katie Sharify. She is a most courageous person and her efforts and sacrifices to benefit others are a model for the rest of us to follow.


  15. All candidates are wonderful, but I would like to vote for Katie Sharifi. I’ve known of her challenges, and her perseverence and “everything is possible” attitude is an inspiration to all.


  16. I definitely vote for Katie Sharify. She is so brave to be the the world’s first ever human that stem cell has been tried on. I truly respect her decision to provide this unique opportunity that will hopefully help to find a cure for this disease.


  17. I vote for Katie Sharify! She’s one brave woman and has turned trauma into hope for so many people she may never even meet later in life. Her honesty and vulnerability is something to be admired.


  18. I vote for Katie Sharify. She’s an inspiration to all of us.
    Wish all the nominees the best.


  19. I’m voting for Doug Sipp, because, frankly, he’s my brother. I’m sure the rest of the nominees are lovely people too.


  20. They are all making great contribution to future and generations to come. I vote for Katie Sharifi.


  21. I vote for Katie Sharifi. Despite all of the challenges in her life, she has devoted her time and her body to the study of stem cell research for future generations to come and is still such a positive person.


  22. Ted Harada! I vote for Ted Harada! He’s been an inspiration to never give up! You would never know that he was sick, if you didn’t know him. He is an awesome, Christian family man!


  23. I am certain all of these individuals are great people. I voted for Ted Herada, a real fighter and tremendous ALS advocate!

  24. Pingback: Stem Cell Person of the Year 2013 Nominations Begin Tomorrow: $1000 Prize | Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog

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