PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania is launching the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a new cross-disciplinary endeavor to investigate and harness the therapeutic potential of stem cells in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases, wound healing and aging. Two renowned Penn scientists, Jonathan A. Epstein and Ralph L. Brinster, will lead the Institute.
The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ronald J. Daniels.
"The discovery of the remarkable properties of adult stem cells is transforming our understanding of basic biology, as well as disease processes," Gutmann said. "Penn researchers are positioned at the forefront of this exciting new development. The Institute for Regenerative Medicine will foster new and significant campus-wide research collaborations to explore the frontiers of stem cell biology and pave the way towards the discovery of lifesaving therapies. I am delighted that two eminent Penn scientists, Dr. Jonathan Epstein and Dr. Ralph Brinster, have agreed to lead this consummately collaborative, interschool and interdisciplinary initiative."
The Institute for Regenerative Medicine will complement existing Penn centers and institutes including the Abramson Cancer Center; the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism; the Institute for Neurological Sciences; the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics; the Penn Cardiovascular Institute; and the Genomics Institute. It will also draw on existing Penn programs in basic cell and organ biology, extensive animal modeling opportunities, practical and experiential expertise in tissue engineering, innovative translational research programs and ready access to pediatric and adult patient populations.
The Institute will work closely with other schools in the region, including Lincoln University and Haverford College, offering cooperative educational programs and student exchanges. In addition, the Institute plans to create partnerships to extend this interaction to inner-city classrooms, bringing the opportunities of regenerative medicine to students early in their academic development.
"The Institute will profoundly change our entire educational continuum," Daniels said. "It will integrate our expertise in stem cell biology, enhance research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, increase postdoctoral fellowships and modernize our training of the next generation of scientists and physicians."
The University is recruiting more than 15 new Institute-affiliated faculty in the next two years in stem cell biology, regenerative medicine and related disciplines. The Penn schools of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Dental Medicine, Engineering and Applied Science and Arts and Sciences have all committed new faculty postings to the Institute. The University is building a multidisciplinary research environment that will support Institute scientists and the schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, along with the Abramson Cancer Center and Childrens Hospital of Pennsylvania, are pooling resources and space to establish new core facilities for Institute affiliates.
"We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be able to call upon the services of Dr. Epstein and Dr. Brinster as we embark on this exciting new initiative," Daniels said. "Jon and Ralph will have the full support of University and School administrators, and we are pleased to be committing substantial resources to seed new research programs and infrastructure projects under their leadership."
Jonathan A. Epstein is the William Wikoff Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Research and chairman of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the Penn School of Medicine. He is the scientific director of the Penn Cardiovascular Institute and has numerous professional affiliations and honors, which include being an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association, a member of the American Association of Physicians and vice president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
Epstein specializes in exploring the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular development, especially their implications for understanding and treating human disease. He has received numerous awards, including the Sir William Osler Young Investigator Award from the Interurban Club and the Outstanding Investigator Award from the American Federation for Medical Research. He earned an A.B. from Harvard College in 1983 and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1988.
Ralph L. Brinster is the Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology in the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.
Brinster has made landmark contributions to research related to germ cells, stem cells and the modification of their genetic program. He has received numerous honors, including the Gairdner Foundation International Award, being one of only three veterinarians ever awarded this distinction; the Wolf Prize in Medicine; the Charles-Leopold Mayer Prize, the highest prize of the French Academy of Sciences; the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology; and the Bower Award for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute. He received a B.S. from Rutgers University in 1953, and a V.M.D. in 1960 and Ph.D. in physiology in 1964 from Penn.
For more information on the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, visit http://www.irm.upenn.edu.