HSCI – A New Approach to Understanding and Treating Disease
Since our founding, our work has identified specific stem cell populations within the body, taught us how to control cell fates, and created stem cell-derived cells to discover effective and safe drugs. The next wave of effort will continue this work and expand in complexity to create cells in three dimensional constructs, fully re-create human diseases in animal models, and develop therapeutic applications.
Among our accomplishments, we have:
- created important new knowledge, including path-breaking discoveries on cell programming and differentiation, evidenced by a publication rate of about 30 papers by our faculty each month;
- laid the groundwork for development of practical applications for our discoveries, through collaborations with biomedical companies including GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson and spurred new biotech start-ups such as Fate Therapeutics, Moderna, iPierian, and others;
- launched vibrant programs that educate students and train professionals – an undergraduate concentration in human development and regenerative biology, a summer internship program, and MD/PhD programs and postdoctoral fellowships;
- created a culture of interactive, team-based science across all Harvard-affiliated institutions; and
- become generally recognized as the world’s premier institution for education and advancement of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.
Harvard stem cell science has built a strong technical and organizational infrastructure, providing tools and resources available to the entire stem cell community at Harvard. This infrastructure provides high-end technical capacities that would be nearly impossible for any individual researcher to acquire or use cost-efficiently. This not only lower barriers to expensive and high-risk research activities, but also facilitates sharing of data and other collaborations among researchers, giving our investigators a distinct advantage in garnering outside grant support.
Since our founding, we have used philanthropic gifts to leverage funding from traditional sources, such as NIH and other external sources.
One third of our seed grants go on to receive further funding at an average of 2.5-3 times HSCI’s original investment. As one seed grant recipient said:
“Without the support of HSCI this project would not have been possible. The HSCI seed grant enabled us to generate all of the preliminary data that is included in an NIH RO1 grant application that is currently pending review. Also, we are in the process of writing a patent application and manuscript on our data from this project.”
HSCI also works on behalf of our faculty to attract corporate and foundation support to augment our own expenditures. Building on our initial investments, our Research Groups and Disease Programs have more than tripled our financial resources.
We pride ourselves on having played a part in the creation of a new model of team science. In the words of one scientist, “HSCI knit together people who for years had worked in parallel and who now work together." This is "quite a special achievement that only HSCI could accomplish.” That has allowed us to attract some of the best people in the field, and also to retain leading scientists who are constantly receiving offers from other institutions. As a new faculty member said, “I came to Harvard (as opposed to other institutions from which I had offers) largely because of my desire to be a part of HSCI. Two-and-a-half years in, I can honestly say that this was a great decision. The HSCI is a community of spectacular scientists, with which I am very proud to be associated.”
Where We're Going
Our overarching objectives during the coming years are to:
- develop and advance to the clinic treatments for diseases of aging, the blood, metabolism, and neurological disorders; and
- continue to advance discovery in stem cell science.
Toward those objectives, we will:
- use stem cells as tools and platforms to continue to deepen our basic understanding of disease processes and human regenerative biology;
- expand the use of stem cells in drug discovery;
- work with various segments of industry to ensure new treatments and cures reach patients as quickly and efficiently as possible; and
- continue our commitment to educate the next generation of stem cell scientists.