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Top stem cell scientist recruited to Ottawa

October 11, 2011

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) are delighted to announce the recruitment of world-renowned scientist Dr. William Stanford to the position of Senior Scientist at OHRI’s Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in uOttawa’s Faculty of Medicine.

The overall goal of Dr. Stanford’s research is to understand the factors that control stem cells and apply this knowledge to improve human health. Specifically, Dr. Stanford’s group uses laboratory and mathematical approaches to understand how all the genes and proteins within in a stem cell combine with other factors to determine if that cell will give rise to brain, muscle, blood or another kind of tissue. Using this approach, Dr. Stanford has identified several master stem cell regulators, some of which are also involved in the development of diseases such as cancer, and could represent targets for the development of new therapies.

Another major focus of Dr. Stanford’s work involves using genetic reprogramming techniques to turn adult human blood and skin cells into powerful embryonic-like stem cells. These “induced pluripotent” stem (iPS) cells can be grown in the laboratory and coaxed into giving rise to all of the specialized types of cells in the body. In the future, it may be possible to use iPS cell technology to provide an unlimited supply of personalized cells and tissues to replace those that have been damaged by disease, injury or aging. iPS cells derived from patients with genetic diseases can also provide a powerful tool to study their disease in the laboratory and develop new drug treatments. Dr. Stanford’s current work with iPS cells has applications for arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer as well as rare genetic diseases such as progeria (premature aging) and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (a type of lung cancer that only affects women).

“I think we’re on the cusp of real breakthroughs in using stem cells to further our understanding of disease and develop new treatments,” said Dr. Stanford. “I came to Ottawa because of this city’s growing strength in stem cell research and because of the great support for basic scientists like me, who want to translate their research into new therapies. I am very excited to work with all the other scientists and clinicians in Ottawa who have had success in this area.”

“We are delighted to have Dr. Stanford as part of our team,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO & Scientific Director of OHRI, Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital, Professor of Medicine at uOttawa and a leading stem cell researcher in his own right. “His research truly is on the cutting-edge of stem cell science, and his collaborative spirit makes him a great fit for OHRI.”

“The University of Ottawa has gained an exceptional researcher in Dr. Stanford whose breadth of expertise in stem cell research and regenerative medicine will no doubt foster promising and exciting possibilities in the treatment of diseases responsible for the most illness-related deaths in Canada – heart disease and cancer”, said Dr. Mona Nemer, Vice-President, Research, at the University of Ottawa.

Before moving to Ottawa, Dr. Stanford was a Full Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. He has trained at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto (as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Alan Bernstein); at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (obtaining his Doctorate in Immunology); and at Duke University in North Carolina (obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry).

In addition to his current appointments at OHRI and uOttawa, Dr. Stanford is also the Lead Scientist of the Cell Reprogramming Platform of the Ontario Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine and the Director of Gene Trap Mutagenesis in the Toronto-based Centre for Modeling Human Diseases.

Dr. Stanford has received several notable distinctions for his work, including the Premier’s Research Excellence Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and the Top Research Award from the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis Quality of Life. He has published over 60 manuscripts in high-ranking journals and has multiple patent applications. Dr. Stanford is also active in teaching and the supervision of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and is involved with science outreach activities, including Let’s Talk Science.

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the University’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The OHRI includes more than 1,500 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. www.ohri.ca

Media contact
Jennifer Paterson
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
613-798-5555 ext. 73325
613-614-5253 (cell)
jpaterson@ohri.ca