At its annual research conference in October, the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) announced the first six recipients of its new Investigator Program, which is supported by grants from the Robertson Foundation and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Among the awardees was HSCI principal faculty member Derrick Rossi, PhD, who was named one of four NYSCF-Robertson Investigators.
Describing the investigators as “some of the world’s most gifted minds,” NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon said that the foundation’s program provides each of its investigators with $1.5 million over the next five years. The funds will help expand recipients’ laboratories and foster innovative research aimed at exploring the potential of stem cells to advance the understanding and treatment of disease.
“This funding supports young scientists at a critical juncture in their careers as they focus on research that has the potential to accelerate the path from bench to bedside,” said Solomon. Over the next five years, the program will provide funding for a total of 19 investigators.
Selected by a four-member committee chaired by HSCI Co-Director Douglas A. Melton, PhD, applicants were required to show true innovation in the translation of basic science to the clinical setting. Rossi, who heads a lab at the Immune Disease Institute at Children’s Hospital Boston, leads a group of researchers who are focusing on the biology of hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, as well as cell reprogram ming aimed at producing clinically useful cell types.
Rossi’s findings made international head lines last fall when his lab announced a safer, far more efficient way to reprogram adult human skin cells to a pluripotent state using synthetic mRNA. Rossi’s group also demonstrated that mRNA could be used to safely and efficiently direct cell fate — a requirement for regenerative medicine to become a viable treatment option.