Whitehead Members to help establish international stem cell research center

Image: Proposed Skolkovo Institute buildings

Proposed Skolkovo Institute buildings

October 1, 2012

Tags: Jaenisch LabReddien LabYoung LabStem Cells + Therapeutic CloningAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —Three Members of the Whitehead Institute faculty are poised to play significant roles in the establishment of a new stem cell research center based at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skolkovo Tech) in suburban Moscow.

Whitehead Founding Member Rudolf Jaenisch, and Members Richard Young and Peter Reddien, will contribute their research, educational, and entrepreneurial expertise to the Skolkovo Center for Stem Cell Research (SCSCR). The center is among the first of three core research facilities to be created at Skolkovo Tech, a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, established in 2011 in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Skolkovo Tech’s research centers—known as Centers for Research, Education, and Innovation (CREIs)— are intended to advance scientific understanding in a particular field, develop cutting-edge technologies for potential commercialization, attract world-class scientists to Skolkovo, and train the next generations of promising students. CREIs are international partnerships consisting of researchers from at least three universities or research institutes: Skolkovo Tech, a Russian university or institute, and a non-Russian university. As part of SCSCR, the Whitehead scientists will join a team under the direction of Peter Lansdorp, Director of the European Research Institute for the Biology of Aging at University of Groningen Medical Center UMCG in the Netherlands.

“This is a very promising experiment,” Lansdorp says. “By stimulating international collaboration, it is certain to advance stem cell science while at the same time helping Russian students—trained by leading stem cell scientists from Whitehead Institute and the Netherlands—to become productive scientists in Moscow." 

Within SCSCR, Lansdorp, Jaenisch, Young, Reddien and others will tackle some of the most fundamental challenges to the development of stem-cell-based therapeutics, including optimizing methods for cellular reprogramming, pluripotent stem cell differentiation, and the identification of gene networks involved in stem cell regulation and regeneration.

Although funding details for the stem cell center are not yet final, Skolkovo officials say that a typical CREI receives about $10 million worth of funding, depending on the scope of each research program.

“Skolkovo’s research centers are unique in their synergy between scientific knowledge and practical application, which originates through various institutes working together in a new way,” says Skolkovo Tech President Edward Crawley. “Russian researchers gain access to cutting edge technologies and the opportunity to integrate into the world's scientific community, our international partners will benefit from the academic knowledge and new ideas produced within Russian institutes, and Skolkovo Tech will attract the world's best scientists to create its educational and research programs.”

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