Stem cell good news briefs: TiGenix, Asterias, CIRM, Awards, & More

TiGenixThere’s a growing stream of stem cell good news of late.

Stem cell biotech, TiGenix, reported encouraging Phase 3 allogeneic results on stem cells. A big milestone. I can’t wait to see the actual data. Its product, Cx601, has so far been safe and effective for perianal fistulas in Crohn’s disease. See more from Alexey on this.

CIRM has funded the largest public stem cell bank in the world. Want to make a withdrawal?CIRM 2.0

Asterias reported some great news. It’s AST OPC-1 product showed some signs of encouraging efficacy in the first three patients treated. They are hoping to expand the trial.

Asterias BioTimeIn about two weeks on September 16th, the first winner of the new Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize will be announced at Gladstone Institutes. This should be a very exciting event honoring a top stem cell translational innovator in the area of cellular reprogramming, who will also received a cash prize of $150,000. According to the organizers, “The Prize was established through a generous gift from Hiro Ogawa to honor the memory of Betty Ogawa, who passed away in May 2014. It continues the philanthropic legacy she shared with her husband of 46 years.” The prize also recognizes Shinya Yamanaka too of course.

Any guesses on who will win? Let us know in the comments. Any kind of recognition of achievement and innovation in stem cells is wonderful.

On that note, I’m also starting to think about candidates for my own stem cell prize, the annual Stem Cell Person of the Year Award. It’s not to the same scale with a $2,000 prize, but I fund it out of my own pocket. The focus is different too. My award goes to the person who has had the single strongest, most innovative impact in the stem cell world for a given year and has taken risks either scientifically or in the area of advocacy. I’m looking for outside-the-box thinkers and doers.

Past winners have included super patient advocate Roman Reed, scientist and politician Elena Cattaneo (who went on to win the ISSCR Public Service Award), and this past year, pioneering stem cell translational scientist Masayo Takahashi. Dr. Takahashi might be a good bet to win the Ogawa-Yamanaka Prize this year.

Who should be nominated this year for the 2015 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award?

It’s not too soon to let me know your thoughts even though nominations don’t officially open quite yet. Last year we had more than two-dozen amazing nominees. The process includes an Internet vote to choose finalists and then I pick the winner from those, sometimes consulting privately with global stem cell scholars.

Map Shows Geographic Surprises in Votes for Stem Cell Person of the Year Award

Stem Cell Person of the Year Award map

With over 4,000 votes cast to select our top 12 finalists for the 2014 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award from more than 50 different countries, how did the votes from various countries play out?

You can see on the map above the top vote getter(s) from the countries that cast the most votes. The more votes overall that a country cast, the dark green it is shown.

In cases where voting was similar amongst several candidates I listed more than one candidate.

For Central Europe, the Pope won out in several countries. Notably, Parmar got the most votes in Northern Europe, the UK, Canada, Australia and Italy. Takahashi got the most votes in Spain. Fasano led in the US, closely followed by Lanza, who was also amongst the top vote getters in votes cast from Canada. Harada led in Brazil. William and DeGette in India. Blogger JuuichiJigen and Endo in Japan.

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

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.

Ted Harada Interview Part 1: Stem Cells for ALS, #IceBucketChallenge, & FDA

Ted Harada FamilyTed Harada is a wonderful patient advocate for the stem cell field and for the development of safe and effective stem cell products to treat ALS. Ted has ALS and received stem cell-based treatments for it with surprising, very encouraging results. The Harada family is pictured at left with Ted, his wife Michelle as well as their three children Ted, Jordan, and Ashleigh.

Ted was a finalist for this blog’s Stem Cell Person of the Year Award last year and he achieves a great deal by doing his homework and working very hard.

I just invited Ted to do an interview about whether things stand on ALS today.

Below you can find Part 1 of my interview with Ted including his perspectives on the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Part 2 will follow soon including Ted’s thoughts on Neuralstem, Right To Try laws, and how Ted’s doing these days.

What are the most important things the public needs to know about ALS?

Ted: ALS is 100% fatal. There are no survivors. There is no known cause and no known cure. Every 90 minutes in this Country someone is diagnosed with this insidious disease and every 90 minutes someone dies from ALS.

Where do you see things today overall for the prospect of using stem cell-based therapies to treat ALS? Hopeful? Discouraged? In the middle? Why?

Ted: Honestly all of the above. I am obviously hopeful, how can I not be hopeful with the results I had that were supported with empirical data. That being said a few things frustrate me. Cases like mine lead to what I believe are less than ethical stem cell clinics that pop up around the globe and even in our own Country. People who are dying are willing, understandably willing to try almost anything and pay a lot of money for it. So preliminary success definitely leads to I believe what the industry refers to as stem cell tourism.

The other thing that I am waiting with baited breath for is more documented stories like mine. I believe what really complicates all treatments for ALS stem cells or otherwise is that ALS is really a syndrome. So there are most likely many forms of ALS therefore as my Neurologist has said to me I may have found what can help your form of ALS but I have no idea what your form is or anyone else’s form.

I once heard a Neurologist give the example of saying a patient has ALS is like saying every time a radio breaks the radio has radio disease. We know there are many reasons why the radio stopped working. Therefore if you took 100 radios and put them in a trial where you were going to change all of their speakers logically we know that only a small percentage of those radios will be fixed by changing the speakers.

That being said I want to reiterate in the big picture I 100% believe that stem cells or perhaps a combination of stem cells and drugs hold the most promise for the future of finding a treatment for ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has drawn some great attention to the ALS advocacy arena. Can you tell us more about it? Do you support it?

A young man that I have had the pleasure to meet Pete Frates a former Boston College baseball player who has ALS saw this novel concept on the internet but it was not tied to a specific charity. He took the idea named it the #ALS #icebucketchallenge and started challenging athletes he knew from Boston College from ice hockey and football and baseball etc and the phenomenon has obviously become a viral sensation that has done more to raise awareness and funding in just a few short weeks than has been done in the 75 years since Lou Gehrig gave his famous speech retiring from Baseball due to the fact that he was being killed by ALS. I am a huge supporter of it, I have participated in it twice and as of 8/20/14 the challenge has raised $31 million for the ALS association. Hopefully all this money will lead to a cure but in the meantime the disease while no less devastating today is certainly a lot less lonely. Please continue reading on Page 2!