On August 3, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, announced the appointment of Mahendra S. Rao, MD, PhD, as the director for the new NIH Intramural Center for Regenerative Medicine (NIH-CRM). The NIH-CRM is an initiative to create a world-class center of excellence in stem cell technology on the NIH campus, including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which can have applications in many systems and organs of the body. This is an initiative of the NIH Common Fund and will be administered by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
A major goal for the center is to build upon existing NIH investments in stem cell research to advance translational studies and ultimately cell-based therapies in the NIH Clinical Center. The center will also serve as a resource for the scientific community, providing stem cells, as well as the supporting protocols and standard operating procedures used to derive, culture, and differentiate them into different cell types.
Dr. Rao is internationally renowned for his research involving human embryonic stem cells and other somatic stem cells. He has worked in the stem cell field for more than 20 years, with stints in academia, government and regulatory affairs and industry.
ASH has been an active leader supporting stem cell research and looks forward to working with the NIH on this issue. The Society was one of the first physician organizations to support embryonic stem cell research, and ASH has issued a policy in support of all avenues of stem cell research. The Society strongly supports federal funding for all avenues of stem cell research under NIH federal research guidelines and with appropriate public oversight.
ASH has also developed specific recommendations to the scientific community and federal agencies to help propel collaborative research in regenerative medicine in order to make real strides in improving patient care. These recommendations were released last summer in Blood, ASH’s premier scientific journal, in the article titled “Enhancing Research in Regenerative Medicine.” Based on these recommendations, ASH has developed a policy statement on regenerative medicine that urges inter-agency collaboration to: 1) review and improve current funding mechanisms for regenerative medicine research to ensure that resources adequately meet the needs of basic discovery, translational and clinical applications of this evolving technology; and 2) re-examine the current clinical trials methodologies and determine if these designs are useful in the utilization of cell-based therapies.
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