Vote now for your pick for Stem Cell Person of the Year 2016

Vote on your pick for the top stem cell outside the box thinker and positive impactor in 2016 from the 20 choices below. The top 10 vote getters will be finalists from which I will have the tough task of picking the one winner as Stem Cell Person of the Year along with the $2,000 prize and recognition.

You can vote once per day. The voting closes in 10 days on December 15th at 11:59pm Pacific Time. Read more about the 20 nominees here.

20 Nominees for Stem Cell Person of the Year 2016 Award

stem-cell-person-of-the-year-awardI received a score of great nominations for the Stem Cell Person of the Year 2016 Award and have briefly described the twenty nominees below. The point of the award is to honor the top positive stem cell leader who specifically thinks outside the box and takes risks.

I’ve started an on-line vote where you can vote once per day for your favorite nominee(s) for Stem Cell Person of the Year. The top half or so of nominees getting the most votes will be the finalists from which I will choose the final winner, who receives the $2,000 prize and international recognition as a global leader in the stem cell and regenerative medicine field.

Past winners of the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award include the following:

  • Top stem cell scientist Jeanne Loring in 2015.
  • Pioneering vision and pluripotent stem cell clinical researcher, Masayo Takahashi in 2014.
  • Neural stem cell scientist and very effective Italian politician Elena Cattaneo in 2013.
  • Stem cell patient advocate Roman Reed in 2012.

Here are the 2016 nominees in alphabetical order by first name with some description of who they are and a bit of the words from the person(s) who nominated them in some cases. Where I could find a link to websites describing their accomplishments, I have provided those.

Amy Wagers, Professor at Harvard. She has a long track record of cutting edge research on stem cells including recently very provocative work on the role of stem cells in human aging and approaches to reversing aging.

Arnold Caplan, Professor at Case Western Reserve. He is often considered the “father” of the mesenchymal stem/stromal cell (medicinal signaling cell) field and has done important research on MSCs over many years.

Connie Eaves, Distinguished Investigator at Terry Fox Laboratory at UBC. She has a remarkable track record of innovative research on stem cells including both normal and cancer stem cells and a reputation as a fantastic mentor and leader in the field more generally. “Brilliant scientist with unmatched piercing view of science”.

Hiroshi Nagashima, Professor at Meiji University, Tokyo. “A true translational scientist (with a wicked sense of humor!)” He works in part on cloning technology and could revolutionize organ transplantation approaches leading to huge impact.

Jim Gass. Jim is a patient who suffered a stroke and then sought stem cell treatments to try to reverse some of the damage. Somewhere along the lines, one or more of the unproven stem cell therapies he received caused him to develop a spinal tumor. He had the courage to go public with his story and describe his experiences, potentially risking litigation. “A gutsy man who has prevented others from getting injured.”

John Pimanda, Associate Professor of Medicine and Stem Cell Biology, UNSW Australia. He researches transcriptional regulation of adult stem cells and now the use of fat stem cells for spine injury.

Judy Roberson. She is a tireless Huntington’s Disease (HD) advocate, always working to make a positive difference. “She is a straight shooter who will tell you what she thinks and work to make it a reality.”

Jun Takahashi. He is a Professor at CiRA and pluripotent stem cell biology researcher. Jun has done pioneering IPSC research and is working to start a very exciting Parkinson’s Disease clinical trial using IPSC in Japan.

Margaret Goodell, Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. She is an internationally respected scholar in the stem cell field. She conducts cool, innovative research on transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of hematopoietic stem cells and how this goes awry in leukemias.

Mike West. Often mentioned as one of the founders of the regenerative medicine field, he is the leader of BioTime and is a thought leader in the field. “Mike knows all about taking risks in regenerative medicine leading to big, positive leaps forward.”

Nissim Benvenisty, Professor of Genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a super-prolific, long-time stem cell researcher. His latest work this year was on revolutionary production of haploid ES cells.

Oliver Brustle, Professor and Director of the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology and Professor of Reconstructive Neurobiology at the University of Bonn Medical Center. He conducts innovative neural stem cell research and is a globally respected stem cell leader.

Randy Mills, President and CEO of CIRM. He has been a leader in stem cell biotech for years and has shaken things up at the helm of CIRM with a much more translational emphasis. “Randy has CIRM on track to meaningful clinical outcomes in a way that I cannot imagine another leader could have achieved. The outcome will change the world.”

Richard Ambinder, Johns Hopkins Hospital. Professor Ambinder has done pioneering work in the area of stem cells and viruses, including HIV, as well as stem cells for patients with hematopoietic malignancies. A scientist with a prodigious publication record of high-impact papers.

Robert Lanza. He has been a regenerative medicine leader for, what, decades? Long time scientific leader behind ACT and then its new incarnation as Ocata, which was purchased by Astellas and he leads global regenerative medicine at Astellas.”We expect something new and big from Bob at every turn”.

Sally Temple, Scientific Director, Co-Founder, and Principle Investigator at the Neural Stem Cell Institute. She is also the President of ISSCR. Scholar and innovative researcher in the stem cell field with a focus on stem cells in the brain. Past MacArthur Fellow. “One of the brightest developmental biologists in the world and a natural leader.”

Sheng Ding, Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease. Dr. Ding has done some of the most creative and impactful research in the stem cell field to date, and continues to crank out new discoveries in particular related to chemical reprogramming. He also has co-founded a number of exciting biotechs including Fate Therapeutics. “He has been a positive leader in the stem cell field, and his outside-of-the-box thinking has greatly enhanced our collective efforts to advance the field.”

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Professor at ONPRC and OHSU. Shoukhrat is a top researcher in the stem and germ cell arenas of research including cloning and mitochondrial transfer, with cutting edge high impact papers published every year. “Fearless and one of the premier innovators in the field”.

Ted Harada (posthumous). Ted was one of the most prominent patients participating in a stem cell clinical trial ever. He fought for patients and efforts such as right to try every step along the way, and brought people together in the field. You can see his obituary and tributes here.

Theresa Liao. Powerful advocate for the use of stem cells to treat recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). Through relentless advocacy she has made a profound difference in this area of clinical research.  “A parent and visionary patient advocate.”

Nature Slams Controversial Stamina Foundation: A Dangerous Situation Continues

One of the big stem cell-related stories of 2013 was the controversy over the Stamina Foundation in Italy and its potential use of largely untested stem cell products on patients, including mostly children. The winner of my 2013 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award was Dr. Elena Cattaneo and one reason she won was the courage she had in standing up to Stamina.

Today’s post is Part 1 of at least 2 in a blog series on Stamina.

Stamina Protest Stem Cells

The Stamina controversy continues in 2014. You can see an image above (and another further down in the post) taken just yesterday in front of the Italian Parliament by pro-Stamina protestors.

Stamina and its leader David Vannoni, whom Nature describes as “a psychologist turned medical entrepreneur” have been embroiled in a complicated situation that has involved scientists, politicians, celebrities, and the aforementioned street protests.

The so-called “Stamina method” for supposedly making neural cells from mesenchymal stem cells is not supported by hard science so the fact that it is being used to treat patients including children is very dangerous.

Scientists in Italy and around the world have almost entirely been skeptical of Stamina or outright condemned it. For example, ISSCR issued a statement of concern including a quote from Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka:

“We sympathize with patients with incurable diseases. However, there is little objective reason to believe that these patients have the possibility of benefitting from a mesenchymal stem cell therapy and treatment decisions should not be made outside of a controlled clinical trial without data on safety and efficacy.”

Nature has done a great job covering the story, including an excellent piece on Tuesday by Alison Abbot that includes both new developments based on leaked documents from Italy as the situation continues to boil over. What was in the leaked papers? Nature says:

The leaked papers reveal that the original expert committee identified serious flaws and omissions in Stamina’s clinical protocol. It did not apply legally required Good Manufacturing Practice standards, the committee says. The protocol exposed an apparent ignorance of stem-cell biology and relevant clinical expertise, the report argues, as well as flawed methods and therapeutic rationale…

One of the other notable aspects of this recent Nature piece is tying Stamina together with US researcher Camillo Ricordi and his Cure Alliance Foundation. In my stem cell predictions for 2014, #9 included the now proven correct prognostication that Stamina would be linked up to US players.

More stamina protest2

Nature indicates that Ricordi has been a public proponent of Stamina and reportedly has supported it strongly with political leaders in Italy. Since the piece published in Nature yesterday, Ricordi has said that his ties to Stamina are not so strong as some have suggested. He also took a shot at me in the comments section of the Nature piece for giving the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award to Cattaneo.

Vannoni has responded to the Nature piece too.  For example, he did a post on his Facebook page claiming that Stamina works and included, which I believe is unconscionable, pictures of a pediatric patient to support his case:

“Warning – writes Vannoni – Stamina is not dangerous and useless (at best makes you fat .) Here is Joel’s first (3.8 kg and completely still , if you do a remnant of a hand) and Joel today ( 10.8 kg with movements of the arms , legs , neck, and hands ) . “

What a strange, dangerous situation.

Vannoni and Stamina have made many claims, and some seem to be unraveling according to Nature:

A week after the leaks, the health ministry revealed that the condition of 36 patients treated with Stamina’s stem-cell therapy had not improved, contrary to Vannoni’s claims that more patients had shown improvement.

I cannot fathom how Stamina could be good for the patients, including mostly vulnerable children.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in this series including new quotes from some of the scientists who have raised concerns and additional information.