Sally Temple on adult RPEs for vision impairment, IND, & more

adult RPEsAt the recent RPI stem cell and bioengineering meeting, the Neural Stem Cell Institute’s Sally Temple talked about her group’s intriguing retinal pigmented epithelial cell (RPE) research.

With the broad focus of attention in the world of RPEs mostly on those derived from either human ESC or IPSC, it was exciting to here about the adult RPEs that Temple’s group has isolated and characterized (e.g. see this paper).

Although only about 3% of cells isolated from the human retina turn out to be retinal stem cells, Temple reported that they can be scaled to provide plenty of potential doses (see below).Sally Temple cells

One of the remarkable things about these stem cells is that they can make beautiful RPEs and also perhaps through some kind of EMT, they can generate cells of the mesenchymal lineage (see image below).

They are hoping to have an IND in the next couple years. I’m very curious how the adult RPEs compare to those made from pluripotent stem cells.retinal pigmented epithelial stem cells

I also asked Sally after the meeting to give a big picture perspective on this work:

“My experience in translating the discovery of RPE stem cells towards a therapeutic for age-related macular degeneration is that it is an intensive team effort. You really need to have experts in different aspects of the science, animal modeling, safety testing, regulatory science and clinical disease, both doctors and patients, all working together. Our experience has been amazing, everyone on the team is working so hard to create this new therapeutic. You also need substantial funding, and we have to thank the NYS NYSTEM program for creating this incredible opportunity via their clinical translation program.”

I’m curious what the pluripotent stem cell-derived RPE fans (e.g. Ocata, the IPSC RPE team in Japan led by Masayo Takahashi, etc.) think of this adult RPE approach.

The Scoop on Cool Next-Gen Stem Cell Conference

Saratoga National Golf ClubDr. Christopher Fasano, principal investigator at the Neural Stem Cell Institute and creator and host of THE Stem Cell Podcast founded a unique stem cell meeting in 2013. In this short interview I find out about The Next-Gen Stem Cell Conference (to be held this year on May 6-7) and how it differs from the others.

What is the Next-Gen Stem Cell Conference?

The Next-Gen Stem Cell Conference is a meeting where young stem cell scientist get together in a causal setting to exchange talk science, as questions, and have fun. The meeting takes place over two days, May 6 and 7 in beautiful Saratoga NY (see venue above, Saratoga National Golf Club) and the program consists of 12 speakers from all aspects of stem cell research. 90% of the speakers are younger stage scientists, new PI’s, post-docs, grad students, etc. and there are two poster sessions to allow for further scientific exchange. The program is designed to accommodate many questions and dialogue to facilitate discussion. On the conference website there is a short video describing the conference in more detail

Why did you create this conference?

In any profession, conferences are a great way to learn about the work of your peers, and network with the people in your field.  In addition, conferences allow you to travel to new places and have some fun with friends and colleagues.  The stem cell field is no different, and there have been some great meetings in fantastic locations where I have learned a lot, and met great friends and collaborators. I have been attending these conferences for over 10 years now, and one thing remains the same…the speakers.  Now, grant it, these speakers are the experts in the field, and their work has been critical in setting up the field for young stem cell scientists like myself.  However, at some point, we need to make sure we give junior investigators a chance to take the lead, as the future of the field relies heavily on us (them).  In addition, while these conferences should be a learning experience, they should be fun, and allow ample time for the attendees to let loose, relax, and speak freely, as in my experience, this is when the real ideas start to manifest themselves.  One day a friend Dr. Mark Tomishima, director of the stem cell facility at Memorial Sloan Kettering, called me with an idea.  He said, “ Hey Fasano, lets start a new conference, focused on junior investigators that’s really fun.”   My response, “Definitely!”  So that’s what I did.

What makes this conference unique?

First and foremost the atmosphere. This conference is very casual, and has a limited capacity of 150 people to ensure the participants can converse easily. If you have questions you will ask them, if you want to learn a technique you will sit and talk with someone about it, if you want to collaborate with someone you will leave with a new colleague. This meeting spurs conversation and discussion by eliminating intimidation. Secondly, most of the participants tend to be younger scientists so they can easily relate to each other and share experiences. Last but not least, the FUN!  Ahh yes, May in Saratoga is beautiful, and this golf club is fantastic.  Included in the affordable registration fee are two lunches, one breakfast, and a great dinner with a 4-hour open bar.  That open bar will be outside on a beautiful patio overlooking the 18thhole with a live DJ.  We have set up discounts at local hotels with shuttles running back and forth to the club.  In addition, we have arranged discounted tee times for those who want to play golf on an award-winning course.  We also have planned the event to end early on Thursday to allow attendees the chance to visit downtown, historic Saratoga to go shopping, or visit the world famous racetrack!

Who are the speakers this year?

We have a great line up of speakers including Samantha Morris from George Daley’s lab, Dieter Egli from NYSCF, Filipe Pereira from Ihor Lemischka’s lab, Evangelos Kiskinis from Northwestern and many more. The complete list of speakers can be found at www.nextgenstemcell.com/speakers-2.

Can people apply to be a speaker/submit an abstract for a poster?

Absolutely. We encourage all registrants to submit an abstract for a poster.   We have set aside two speaker slots this year to be selected for talks so be sure to submit an abstract.

Are there travel grants available?

While there are no travel grants per se, we have made registration quite affordable to ensure a good attendance. If someone out there really wants to come to Next-Gen but just can’t afford it, please e-mail me and we will see what we can do.

How do I register?

Registration is now open and you can do so at www.nextgenstemcell.com. Please register now as seating is limited, and the early registration price ends April 1st. As an extra bonus, please type in BLOG upon checkout and you will receive 20% off your registration!

Diverse Stem Cell Person of the Year 2014 Award Finalists

Stem Cell Award Poll 2014With more than 4,142 votes cast, the readers of this blog have chosen the top 12 finalists for the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award for 2014 from the 27 nominees.

You can see the final vote tallies at left. The votes came from more than 50 countries with some interesting geographic patterns (I may do a post on that as a follow up).

I’ve pasted the brief bios of the twelve finalists below at the end of this post.

Now comes the tough task for me to pick a single winner from this amazing group. I will announce the Stem Cell Person of the Year 2014 within 1-2 weeks.

The finalists are a diverse group. They include scientists from academia and industry, patient advocates, a blogger, and the Pope. We have six male and six female finalists who live all around the world including in the US, Japan, Sweden, Canada, and Vatican City.

I’m happy to see both some familiar faces from nominees and finalists from past years and new ones too.

Who would you pick as the one winner and why? Post in the comments.

Finalists Bios (including in bold quotes from nominators)

Chris Fasano. A principal investigator at the Neural Stem Cell Institute where he uses stem cells to study early nervous system development. “Chris stands out for his energy, enthusiasm, dedication to the field, creativity and accomplishments.”

Don C. Reed. Long-time stem cell research advocate who played a key role in the success of Prop 71 and the creation of CIRM. “A tireless stem cell advocate always there to make a positive difference.”

Janet Rossant. Professor, University of Toronto. Stem Cell Researcher and Past President, ISSCR. “She works tirelessly to create new opportunities and collaborations…globally respected for her work in early development and embryonic stem cells”

Judy Roberson. Long-time Huntington’s Disease patient advocate. “She makes concrete positive developments happen such as millions of dollars in research funding for HD.”

JuuichiJigen. Japanese blogger who investigates scientific misconduct and played a key role in revealing the STAP scandal. He was the first to investigate and bring to the public of problems with STAP papers. His investigations demonstrated the role of social media and post-publication peer review in rapid self-correction of science.”

Malin Parmar. Associate Professor, Developmental and Regenerative Neurobiology, Lund University. Top neural regeneration scientist. “Young, hard worker who is doing very well”.

Masayo Takahashi. Stem cell researcher leading the team that is doing the first ever clinical study based on human iPS cells. “Creative and courageous clinical stem cell researcher.”

Pope Francis. Leader of Worldwide Catholic Church. “Strong supporter of adult stem cell biotechs and research”.

Robert Lanza. CSO of Advanced Cell Technology, which has multiple ES cell-based clinical trials ongoing. “Visionary and practical so makes the impossible possible with stem cells”.

Susan Solomon. Co-Founder and CEO of The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). Remarkably effective advocate for stem cell research. “Not many leaders have created their own research laboratories and raised $100 million plus. Seriously, what an accomplishment!”

Ted Harada. Leading stem cell research advocate and very effective ALS patient advocate. “An Energizer Bunny for the ALS community and stem cell advocate”

Tory Williams. Stem cell advocate and author of the 2014 book, Inevitable Collision. Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Alabama Institute of Medicine (AIM). “A true hero who inspires and makes real things happen like AIM”.