Nominations open for Stem Cell Person of the Year 2016 Award

Nominations are open starting today for the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award for 2016. Please email me your nominations: knoepflerATucdavisDOTedu.stem-cell-person-of-the-year-award

This is a unique award as it is given to an individual who has taken risks to help others within the stem cell field and they based their actions on outside-the-box thinking.

Another unusual aspect is that anyone is eligible for the prize whether you are a scientist, physician, patient, writer, student, etc. There are also no geographic restrictions.

The winner receives recognition as a positive leader in this arena and a $2,000 cash prize that I award myself out of pocket.

Nominations will close one month from today on October 15th.

The nominations I receive will then be subject to an Internet vote and the top 50% will be the finalists, from which I will choose the winner. While I alone choose the winner, I often get feedback from leaders around the globe in the stem cell and regenerative medicine field.

Previous winners include these stellar stem cell leaders:

Who will win the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award for 2016? Send me your nominations.

Stem Cell Person of the Year 2014: Masayo Takahashi (高橋 政代)

Masayo Takahashi

Dr. Masayo Takahashi,  Asahi photo

Congratulations to Masayo Takahashi (高橋 政代), MD, PhD, the winner of the 2014 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award.

Dr. Takahashi received this award including the $2,000 prize for her exceptional achievements in stem cell research in 2014. She was selected as the winner from a stellar group of top 12 finalists this year.

Takahashi leads a team doing high-risk, high reward research that is conducting the first induced pluripotent stem cell (IPSC) clinical study in humans ever. I interviewed Takahashi at the beginning of this year and you can learn more about her research and vision for the future from reading that interviewMonkey stem cell RPEs

The Takahashi team clinical study is intended to examine the safety of a human retinal pigmented epithelial cell (RPE) product made from each patients’ own IPSCs. You can see at right RPEs produced by her team from monkey pluripotent stem cells.

In an astonishing feat of speedy clinical translation, Takahashi’s team transplanted its first macular degeneration patient recently on September 12, only 7 years after human IPSCs were first ever published. The usual timeline for such translation would be 20 years. In that regard, in a recent interview I did with him, Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka had this to say of Takahashi and her work:

I was surprised that after the announcement of human iPSCs in 2007, Dr. Takahashi told me that she would bring iPSC to the bedside within five years. I thought it possible technically speaking, but doubted it could be done so soon, since we needed to improve the technology and get government approval. It took 7 years, which is remarkable considering the work required. Both the accomplishment and the speed at which it was achieved are testaments to Dr. Takahashi’s leadership and her strong team.

Her achievements extend beyond this year to an outstanding long-term track record in vision research including a very impressive track record of highly-cited publications. Takahashi is physician scientist, who is a faculty member and Project Leader at the Laboratory of Retinal Regeneration at the CDB at RIKEN. Some of her nominators for the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award described her as a “transformative” and “courageous” stem cell scientist. Below you can see a TEDx talk from just a few months ago by Takahashi explaining her work.

Takahashi joins previous Stem Cell Person of the Year Award recipients Roman Reed and Elena Cattaneo as outside-the-box thinkers who to take risks to make outstanding new developments in the arena of stem cell research with the goal of helping others.

More about the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award. I fund this prize myself as a way of giving back to the stem cell community and recognizing transformative people who take risks to help others. It is to my knowledge the only annual, international science-related prize personally funded by a professor.

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”.

Nominations Open for 2014 Stem Cell Person of the Year with $2,000 Prize

Logo3Nominations are now open for the 2014 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award.

The winner receives $2,000 as well as recognition as a true difference maker and leader in the stem cell field.

I found the first two years of this award process that all the finalists received a great deal of positive attention even if they didn’t win and I expect the same will be true this year.

Please nominate your pick for the most positively influential person of the year of 2014 in the stem cell field.  Some of the strongest candidates last year received multiple independent nominations so just because you think someone else will probably nominate your favorite, you should still nominate them too.

Send them to me at knoepfler@ucdavis.edu.

Include a brief (target length = 1/4 page) explanation as to why you think the person in question is deserving of the award, any relevant links, and other pertinent material.

Nominees can be almost anyone ranging from an advocate to an academic or industry scientist to a stem cell biotech leader to a policy maker to a physician…think outside the box! Surprise me!

To be fair and keep things as interesting as possible, there are a few rules.

  • Employees of UC Davis, where I work, are not eligible.
  • Organizations are not eligible.
  • Only individuals may be nominated.
  • Previous winners are also not eligible.
  • Self-nominations are accepted, but will face a higher hurdle.

I’m looking for people who have made a transformative, positive advance happen in the stem cell field.

I particularly appreciate creative change makers who have the guts to take risks to help others.

On October 7th at midnight, nominations will close and on October 8, International Stem Cell Day, I will announce the finalists. At that point we will also begin a two-week Internet vote on the candidates for finalists.

Stem Cell Person of the Year 2014 Award To Include $2,000 Prize

stem cell person of the year 2014I believe in putting my money where my mouth is. When people in the stem cell field make extraordinary, positive contributions, they deserve major recognition and something tangible. With this goal in mind, I give out an annual Stem Cell Person of the Year Award.

Past award winners have received the recognition and a $1,000 prize that I put up myself.

I’m excited this year to boost the prize to $2,000. It’s part of my way of giving back and supporting the field.

To be clear, to me personally this is a lot of money, but I feel passionately about advocating for the stem cell field so it is worth it to me to support this award.

The point of this prize is to recognize people who are willing to take risks to help others. These are innovators and outside the box thinkers not satisfied with the status quo. Past winners Roman Reed in 2012 and Elena Cattaneo in 2013 both exemplify these attributes.

Nominees and the ultimate winner could be someone from any part of the stem cell arena: patients, advocates, scientists, doctors, policy makers, industry leaders, etc.

On this coming Monday, September 22nd, I will formally open the door to nominations for this award with a blog post. Let me know your suggestions after that. That post on Monday will include the full rules, but there are just a few.

On October 7th at midnight, nominations will close and on October 8, International Stem Cell Day, I will announce the candidates. At that point we will also begin a two-week Internet vote on the candidates for finalists.

The top vote getters–exact number depending on the total number of nominees–will be the finalists.

The Internet poll does not decide the winner, but from that pool I will pick the winner, who will be announced most likely in early November.

Who will win in 2014? Who do you think should? Starting thinking about people you’d like to nominate.