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Prominent stem cell researcher joins UCI faculty
Peter Donovanís hire important step in expansion of Stem Cell Research Center
Irvine, Calif., January 4, 2006
Peter J. Donovan, a developmental biologist renowned for pioneering research into the basic properties of stem cells, has been appointed to the UC Irvine faculty.
Donovan’s recruitment marks the continued growth of the UCI Stem Cell Research Center, the university’s center of excellence for stem cell approaches to basic science and therapy development. He will hold a joint appointment in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine as a professor of developmental and cell biology and biological chemistry. He also will become interim co-director of the Stem Cell Research Center, joining current interim co-director Hans Keirstead, an associate professor at UCI’s Reeve-Irvine Research Center.
“Peter Donovan and his laboratory bring significant knowledge of the genetic and environmental signals controlling stem cell behavior,” said Susan V. Bryant, dean of the School of Biological Sciences. “These are issues that all stem cell biologists wrestle with, and we are excited to see a researcher of his caliber join our team.”
Donovan comes to UCI from Johns Hopkins University, where he was co-director of the Stem Cell Biology Program in the Institute for Cell Engineering. He was among the first to discover that primordial germ cells – the embryonic-stage cells that give rise to the reproductive tissue of the adult – have the potential to differentiate into any of the specialized cells of the body. This characteristic, called pluripotency and often referred to as the “stemness” of these cells, is functionally similar to that seen with embryonic stem cells. He is expected to bolster the efforts of other UCI scientists focused on disease-specific applications of stem cell biology.
“By studying how stem cells maintain their pluripotency, Peter’s scientific efforts pinpoint a critical early step in the development of cell-replacement therapies,” commented Dr. Thomas C. Cesario, dean of the School of Medicine. “Medical researchers at UCI and elsewhere will need to know how to maintain stem cells in an unspecialized state in order to use them as a large-scale source of transplantable cells for diseases affecting thousands, if not millions, of patients.”
Donovan, who brings nearly $3 million in extramural funding to UCI, has served at Johns Hopkins since 2003. From 1998 to 2003, he worked at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and earlier spent 10 years at the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Research and Development Center in Frederick, Md. He received his doctorate in cell biology from University College, London.
Donovan is regarded as a key new appointment for the UCI Stem Cell Research Center, which provides campus and visiting scientists an infrastructure to capitalize on recent stem cell breakthroughs, particularly in the areas of nerve repair and regeneration. He also arrives as UCI is seeking support to construct a $60 million Stem Cell Research Institute facility aimed at propelling stem cell technology from the research lab to the clinic.
Joining Donovan at UCI will be Leslie Lock, another researcher from the Stem Cell Biology Program at Johns Hopkins University, who has been appointed an assistant adjunct professor in developmental and cell biology and biological chemistry. Lock was among the pioneers in stem cell research working with Gail Martin at UC San Francisco who demonstrated two decades ago that stem cell lines could be made from pluripotent cells of the mouse embryo. Donovan also arrives shortly after the appointment of UCI’s Michele Musacchio as stem cell core resource director, with whom Donovan will establish a facility aimed at providing stem cell culture equipment, diagnostic tools and training space for researchers throughout Southern California.
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Peter J. Donovan
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UCI Stem Cell Research