The Harvard Stem Cell Institute is pleased to announce the 2012 Sternlicht Director's Fund Award recipients: Chaiyaboot (Tee) Ariyachet, Jose Rivera-Feliciano, PhD, and Richard Sherwood, PhD. Sternlicht Director's Fund Award recipients are selected by a review committee consisting of HSCI's senior scientific leaders and represent promising Harvard graduate students and postdoctoral researchers working in the field of type 1 diabetes research.
Chaiyaboot (Tee) Ariyachet is a third-year graduate student working in the laboratory of Qiao Zhou, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. The Zhou Laboratory focuses on the reprogramming of cells from adult organs into new identities and functions. As part of this effort, Tee is simultaneously pursuing research on reprogramming liver cells into beta cells and on creating cell lines that can be used to test the ability of heterologous cells to convert to beta cells in vivo.
Jose Rivera-Feliciano is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Douglas Melton, PhD, Xander University Professor and Co-Director of the HSCI. He is currently investigating novel signals discovered in cells in the pancreatic lineage. These signals potentially play an important role in not only pancreatic differentiation, but directed differentiation of stem cells generally. Rivera-Feliciano is eager to apply concepts from the fields of engineering, genetics, and regenerative biology to the design of novel stem-cell-based therapies for diabetes.
Richard Sherwood is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Richard Maas, PhD, Chief of Genetics at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Sherwood's research focuses on the integrated application of genomic techniques and the problem of generating embryonic stem-cell-derived pancreatic islet cells. He is also currently collaborating with researchers at M.I.T. as part of a group investigating pancreatic islet engineering. The support provided by the Sternlicht Award will help Sherwood continue his work on de novo generation of pancreatic islet cells for eventual therapeutic use.
Now in its fifth year, the Sternlicht Director's Fund was established in 2007 with a $1 million gift from Barry Sternlicht. Mr. Sternlicht is an alumnus of Brown University and Harvard Business School, and chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group. Along with his wife, Mimi, Sternlicht has raised millions of dollars on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and has been honored with that organization's prestigious Man of the Year Award, as well as its Living and Giving Award.
The HSCI Diabetes Program is led by Chad Cowan, PhD and is a community of researchers focused on the challenge of how to make beta cells that could be used to treat diabetes and in understanding the causes of the autoimmune attack. In recent years the program has enjoyed notable successes and continues to be a recognized leader in advancing diabetes-related science. The Sternlicht Director's Fund is one of several funding instruments that HSCI utilizes to support the work of the next generation of stem cell scientists.