hESC 20 years - A walk down memory lane
This article is written based on interviews with Drs. Martin Pera, Peter Andrews, Tenneille Ludwig, Benjamin Rubinoff, and Outi Hovatta, leading stem cell researchers and pioneers within pluripotent stem cell research. Those who have been along for the entire ride. Enjoy!
Benjamin Reubinoff, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Hadassah University Medical Center, Jerusalem Israel
Professor Reubinoff is one of the pioneers of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. In collaboration with scientists from Monash University in Melbourne and the National University of Singapore, he was the second in the world to derive human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines and was the first to show somatic differentiation of the hESCs in culture. Prof. Reubinoff is the founder and director of the Sidney and Judy Swartz Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center and a full professor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. The focus of Prof. Reubinoff’s research is the exploitation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in regenerative medicine for the treatment of neural and retinal degenerative disorders. He is the founder of Cell Cure Neurosciences Ltd. and has been the Chief Scientific Officer since 2006. He is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board at Kadimastem Ltd. His work on human pluripotent stem cells helped lead to the development of programs that are now in clinical trials in Israel.
Peter Andrews, B.Sc, MBA, DPhil,
Arthur Jackson Professor of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK
Professor Peter Andrews has devoted his research career to studying the biology of human embryonic stem (ES) cells and their malignant counterparts, embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells. Prof. Andrews was the first scientist in the UK to work with human ES cells, following the first derivation in 1998. Prof. Andrews’ laboratory studies the causes and consequences of the non-random genetic abnormalities observed in human ES cells after prolonged culture, as well as the progression of stem cell-based cancers. Further work is focused on using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell techniques to establish models to study pediatric cancers. Prof. Andrews was a co-founder and director of Axordia Ltd., one of the UK’s leading hESC companies (now a subsidiary of Pfizer) and has been involved in the derivation of several clinical-grade hESC lines (the Sheffield lines), deposited in the UK Stem Cell Bank. Prof. Andrews coordinated the International Stem Cell Initiative and was the director of the Pluripotent Stem Cell Platform, a hub under the UKRMP. He is also on the editorial board of several stem cell journals.
Tenneille Ludwig, Ph.D.
Director at WiCell stem cells bank in Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Dr. Tenneille Ludwig is the Director of the WiCell Stem Cell Bank overseeing the banking, distribution, and operation of the core facility at WiCell. Between 2001-2007 she worked in Dr. James Thomson’s laboratory where her work on the optimization of cell culture conditions resulted in the development of the first defined, feeder-independent culture system for human embryonic stem cells (TeSR/mTeSR). Dr. Ludwig is a member of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center at the University of Wisconsin and has served as a Scientific Advisor to multiple boards. She serves on the steering committee for the International Stem Cell Banking Forum (ISCBF) and operates one of the Core Laboratories for the International Stem Cell Initiative (ISCI).
Martin F. Pera, Ph.D.
Professor at the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbour, Main, USA
Professor Martin F. Pera is a pioneer and leading stem cell researcher with interests in neuroscience and regenerative medicine. His laboratory at Monash University was the second in the world to isolate embryonic stem cells from the human blastocyst, and the first to describe their differentiation into somatic cells in vitro. His work on neural differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells helped lead to the development of a new treatment for macular degeneration, which is now in clinical trials in Israel. Prof. Pera joined the Jackson Laboratory in 2017 where his research focuses on the biology and regulation of pluripotency and the genetic basis of individual differences in the response of the central nervous system to injury.
Outi Hovatta, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, Obstetrics, and Gynecology, especially Assisted Reproduction, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
Professor emerita Outi Hovatta has been researching fertility for nearly 40 years. She was the first researcher in Sweden to derive and grow embryonic stem cells. Her group in Stockholm is also among the foremost in the world when it comes to developing completely clean lines, which can be used for future treatments. Prof. em. Hovatta has helped countless infertile couples and derived over 30 different human embryonic stem cell lines. Between 1998 and 2013 she was the chief physician of the fertility unit at Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge in Stockholm. She held a professorship at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and was a senior professor before retiring in 2016.
Arik Hasson, Ph.D., Executive VP Research and Development & Galit Mazooz, Ph.D., Director of Business Development at Kadimastem in Ness Ziona, Israel
Dr. Hasson holds a Ph.D. in cellular neurobiology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and did post-doctoral research at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Dr. Hasson then joined Gamida Cell as head of Stem Cell Projects where he was responsible for the diabetic and neurological projects. As head of Development, he helped to develop Gamida Cell’s first Cell Therapy product, StemEx®, to enter clinical trials. Dr. Hasson helped to initiate the Israeli Consortium for Stem Cells R&D where he served as the R&D Director. Dr. Hasson became Kadimastem ’s first employee when it was founded in the fall of 2009.
Dr. Mazooz holds a Ph.D. from Weizmann Institute for Science, Rehovot, Israel. She has more than ten years of industrial experience from various positions within R&D and business development. She spent more than five years as senior Licensing Director with focus on Technology Transfer from The Weizmann Institute of Science before joining Kadimastem in 2018.
Malin Parmar, Ph.D.
Professor in Cellular Neuroscience at Lund University, Sweden
Professor Malin Parmar’s research focuses on developmental and regenerative neurobiology. The main aim of her research is to bring new cell-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease to the clinic. Malin has a Ph.D. degree in developmental biology in 2003 from Lund University which was followed by a PostDoc Position at the Institute of Stem Cell Research at Edinburgh University, financed by Swedish Research Council. After her postdoc, she moved back to Lund to set up her own lab at the Department of Experimental Medical Science. Prof. Parmar is a leading authority within Parkinson’s research and Regenerative medicine and she has leading roles in several European and global network and consortiums which are working toward doing the first-in-human clinical trials with stem cell-derived neurons for Parkinson’s disease. She is also the founder and owner of Parmar Cells AB, a research and development company with consultancy services in biomedicine and biotechnology.
Heli Skottman, Ph.D.
Professor at Tampere University, Finland
Dr. Skottman is Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology at Tampere University in Finland and has over 16 years of experience in establishing, culturing and differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC). Prof. Skottman has devoted herself to eye research, targeting clinical applications for retinal and corneal diseases, developing hPSC based tools for disease modeling, drug discovery and cell transplantation. Prof. Skottman joined Tampere University, Finland in 2005 after a postdoctoral position in Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Turku in Finland. Prof. Skottman holds a Ph.D. in molecular animal biotechnology in the University of Eastern Finland. She is also schooled in Bio business at Turku School of Economics in Finland.
Fredrik Lanner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor at the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology (CLINTEC), Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden
Assistant Professor Fredrik Lanner undertook his Ph.D. thesis at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. After his postdoctoral research in Janet Rossant’s lab at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, he returned to Karolinska Institutet and established his independent research lab exploring how pluripotent stem cells are regulated in the human embryo and how embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can be used for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration.
Mieke Geens, Ph.D.
Research Professor and Group Leader at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
Research professor Geens’ research is mainly focused on exploring the differentiation potential of individual hPSC lines and defining markers that can reliably predict the differentiation propensity of a specific stem cell line. Her research group also investigates whether there are specific chromosomal abnormalities that consistently change the differentiation capacity of hPSCs or give them higher tumorigenic properties.
Jo Mountford, Ph.D.
Head of Cellular Therapeutics at the SNBTS JACK Copland Centre in Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Prof. Jo Mountford is a specialist in translational processes and focuses on the development of stem cell-based technologies and regenerative medicine. She is an Honorary Professor at Heriot-Watt University and also holds Honorary Associate Professorship at the University of Glasgow and is the Head of Cellular Therapeutics at the SNBTS Jack Copland Centre in Edinburgh.
The SNBTS Cell Therapy Group is supporting the development of different cell-based technologies and cellular therapies with particular focus on the development, translation, and manufacturing of clinical-grade cellular therapies according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Jo’s academic interests are in the generation of mesodermal cell lineages for therapeutic use. This includes molecular and biochemical analyses, and the overall aim is to fully dissect key signaling events, transcriptional networks, and epigenetic changes that lead to effective differentiation to these lineages.
David C. Hay, Ph.D.
Group Leader and Professor of Tissue Engineering at MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr. David C. Hay is group leader, Professor, and chair of Tissue Engineering at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He has more than 15 years of experience in working with pluripotent stem cells, and his research focuses on hepatocyte derivation with the aim of translating stem cell-derived hepatocytes into scalable manufacturing processes, 3D culture systems, semi-automated screening platforms, and in the development of renewable sources of liver tissue. His research has led to a high number of well-cited publications and a long-standing international reputation. Prof. David C. Hay is a director and co-founder of Stemnovate, which focuses on developing innovative cell-based platforms to model human organ function. He is also the scientific director and co-founder of Higher Steaks, a company that develops animal cell-derived meat products.
Abdenour Soufi, Ph.D.
Senior Researcher and Group Leader at MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr. Abdenour Soufi is a group leader at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK. His research group focuses on the engineering of highly potent, novel iPSC reprogramming factors.
Tilo Kunath, Ph.D.
Senior Researcher and Group Leader at MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr. Tilo Kunath research group focuses on mechanisms of neurodegeneration with two main areas; to understand how the protein, α-synuclein, causes degeneration of neurons in Parkinson’s, and to produce a cell-based therapy for Parkinson’s from human pluripotent stem cells. The group also use patient-derived material to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) with genetic mutations known to cause Parkinson’s.