Who’s who in iPS cell field: update

                   Spring                                                                 End Nov. 2011

Here is an updated–Who’s who in the iPS cell field?  In this post, I examine the people, journals, places, funding agencies, and companies that are the leaders in the iPS cell field. I start with publishing.

Last year we did a post on publishing trends in the iPS cell field.  It suggested that the iPS cell field was exploding in terms of the number of papers, but that they were mostly being published in a surprisingly limited number of journals. What I’m seeing so far for 2011 also surprises me, but for different reasons.

A modest increase in papers. When I first did this analysis earlier this year (graph above left) according to ISI Web of Science (see small graph above left), almost 1/3 of the way through 2011 the number of iPS cell papers* was far lower than I would have expected, around only 75. However at this point with only December left in 2011, iPS cell publications have caught up and now surpass the number in 2010 (Above right). I’d predict about 500 total iPS cell papers in 2011 so no decrease, but only a modest increase.

Citations per iPS cell paper going way down. In my original post, not quite 1/3 of the way through 2011, my ISI search found more than 3,000 citations putting 2011 on track to have approximately the same total number of iPS cell citations as did 2010 (see graph to the right and below).  Now with only 1 month to go, citations have caught up, but are on track to only modestly exceed those of 2010 by the end of 2011. But considering the tremendous increases in the number of iPS cell papers in 2009 and 2010 and now a modest increase in pubs in 2011 so far, what no major increase in total citations means is that the impact of each iPS cell paper is plummeting. Perhaps not surprisingly, since the field is flooded with iPS cell papers, each one is drawing far less attention. This also means that scientists are going to have a harder time separating the wheat from the chaff.                                Spring                                                                 End Nov. 2011

More analysis from my original post with trends that still largely hold true to this day.

More journals and more authors. In the past, the iPS cell field was dominated by surprisingly few scientists and journals. That is changing dramatically. In 2011 there is a striking increase in the diversity of authors and journals that are publishing iPS cell papers. Not surprisingly, Shinya Yamanaka, the discoverer of iPS cells, is by the far the most published iPS cell author with 24 papers total.  George Daley is not that far behind with 17 papers.  Otherwise there are hundreds of authors publishing on iPS cells. I think this is a good thing as the iPS cell field grows. The range of journals publishing iPS cell papers has greatly broadened, which is also a positive for the field as it matures.

Funding Agencies behind the iPS cell papers: some intriguing surprises. ISI also allows one to do searches by funding agencies. When I did this for iPS cell papers, I found that NIH (blue boxes–see figure below, which note is not a complete list) was far ahead of the pack. NIH funding was listed on 15% of all iPS cell papers (this is total, not just in 2011). CIRM (red boxes) was next with 4.8% of papers. Remarkably CIRM funds more iPS cell work here in California than most countries in the world fund. But guess which funding agency was 3rd? The National Natural Science Foundation of China was next with 2.2%. This is quite interesting and suggests iPS cell research is far more active in China than some might have thought and in total Chinese funding agencies (green boxes) supported 5% of iPS cell papers. I think this is very positive and we can expect the number of iPS cell papers from Chinese research institutes to continue to rise.

A bunch of funding agencies in Japan (purple boxes) collectively funded 8.8% of iPS cell papers, a major fraction of all iPS cell papers.

At 1.8% was funding from the Fundacion Cellex, a private agency in Spain that you can read more about here on this Google translated page. This is one that I have never heard of. In addition, The G Harold and Leila Y Mathers Charitable Foundation was at 1.6%. HHMI is at 1.4%.

While there is some redundancy on the list that I have tried to control for (e.g. CIRM and California Institute of Regenerative Medicine), it appears that iPS cell papers have altogether been supported by hundreds of funding agencies, which I think is very exciting. My findings also give researchers some additional ideas as to where to get funding for iPS cell research.

Countries. Researchers who identify their institutions as within the U.S. and Japan publish 71% of all iPS cell papers with the U.S. publishing 46% of all iPS cell papers and Japan almost 25%. China is third with 11% and right behind is Germany with 10%.

Biotechs. By their nature, for-profit companies are more closed-mouth about their research. We know several are working on iPS cells, but it is likely that many more are doing so in private. iPierian is a company focused on iPS cell technology. Amongst other areas, iPierian is using iPS cells to study and develop therapies for neurological, cardiac, and metabolic diseases. Another company that has talked publicly about iPS cell technology and published some important findings is Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). However, it remains unclear if ACT is pursuing iPS cell-based drugs as they were focusing on ES cells, yet in 2010 they starting talking more about their IP in the iPS cell area. Nature also published a table (see it here) of companies working on iPS cells including Cellular Dynamics InternationalFate Therapeutics, iPierian, andStemgent. There are certain to be far more companies in this area now.

*iPS cell papers are defined as those with one of the following phrases in their title: iPS cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, induced pluripotent, induced pluripotency


  1. I found this bit concerning the founder of the Cellex corporation: http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/sociedad/20100620/millones-cinco-anos/print-337659.shtml

    Translating loosely:

    The 89-years old chemist Pere Mir, of Spanish and Swiss nationality, is a genuine donor. He has lots of money, has no children, and he is the greatest private patron of biomedical research in Catalunya, way beyond the others. In the last five years, Mir has given 62 million € to those biologists, doctors, and biochemists who have enthused him with their ideas. He has never agreed to interviews with the media concerning his patronage, not even to encourage other individuals in simmilar economic situations. Those who know him in depth -he’s a personal friend of the queen- say he discovered a master formula linked to the world of phosphates, He sold the patent, and was lucky in the transaction. He invested in real state and his fortune kept growing. Until, five years ago, after talking it with his wife, he decided to share his unquestionable economic good luck with the rest of humanity. He decided to be a scientific patron. He subscribed to specialized magazines, such as the NEJM, and he got up to date in the current master lines that move the present biomedical science in the world. Before helping a scientist, Mir gets to known him in depth, visits the installation where he works, and studies his projects. Rigor in exchange for rigor is his deal. “

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