Public Release: 

Ogawa-Yamanaka Prize founded at the Gladstone Institutes to support stem cell research

The new award recognizes Masayo Takahashi for conducting the first clinical trial using induced pluripotent stem cells

Gladstone Institutes

The Gladstone Institutes is pleased to present the inaugural Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize to Masayo Takahashi, MD, PhD, a faculty member and project leader in the Laboratory for Retinal Regeneration at the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology in Japan.

The Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize was established through a generous gift from Mr. Hiro Ogawa and is supported by the Gladstone Institutes. The new award recognizes individuals whose original translational research has advanced cellular reprogramming technology for regenerative medicine. Laureates will receive an unrestricted prize of $150,000 USD.

Dr. Takahashi was awarded the prize for her trailblazing work leading the first clinical trial to use induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in humans. The goal of her research is to treat retinal diseases, starting with macular degeneration.

"It is extremely gratifying to see iPS cell technology applied in humans only eight years after its discovery," says Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes and member of the Roddenberry Stem Cell Center at Gladstone. "I applaud Dr. Takahashi's pioneering work to advance stem cell technology and help cure ocular diseases." Dr. Yamanaka, who is also the director of the Center for iPS Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University, won the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his discovery of iPS cells.

George Daley, MD, PhD, professor of hematology/oncology and director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Boston Children's Hospital, says, "By confronting and ultimately solving the many regulatory challenges of a first-in-human trial, Dr. Takahashi has paved the way for all of us in the stem cell community to recognize the promise of iPS cells."

The first surgery was successfully performed in September 2014 using retinal tissue Dr. Takahashi created from the patient's own iPS cells. Prior to moving the study to a second patient, Dr. Takahashi chose to delay the trial as part of a safety validation step and in consideration of anticipated regulatory changes to iPS cell research in Japan. This demonstrates an appropriate degree of caution applied in such research and highlights the rigor displayed by this year's recipient. Stem cells continue to be regarded as a promising source of sustainable new tissue.

"As both a physician and a scientist, Dr. Takahashi embodies the ideal recipient because her work brings cellular reprogramming to patients," says Gladstone president R. Sanders Williams, MD. "Mr. Ogawa's visionary support of translational stem cell research will help encourage and accelerate the progression of the field."

This prize also honors the memory of Betty Ogawa, who passed away in May 2014. It continues the philanthropic legacy she shared with her husband of 46 years. The two have long supported innovative biomedical research, including establishing the Betty Jean and Hiro Ogawa Endowed Investigator at Gladstone.

The inaugural ceremony will occur at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, CA on September 16, 2015. The celebration will recognize Dr. Takahashi's achievements and she will give a scientific presentation, which will be available via live streaming.

An expert committee of stem cell researchers made up of Dr. Daley, Hideyuki Okano, MD, PhD, chairman of Keio University Graduate School of Medicine, Marius Wernig, MD, PhD, an associate professor at the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Deepak Srivastava, MD, director of the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease and director of the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at the Gladstone Institutes, and Dr. Yamanaka, selected the first laureate.

The 2016 nomination process opens January 1, 2016. Nomination letters must be submitted to https://gladstone.org/ogawa-yamanaka-stem-cell-prize and are due by 5:00 pm (PDT) on March 30, 2016.

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About the Gladstone Institutes

To ensure our work does the greatest good, the Gladstone Institutes focuses on conditions with profound medical, economic, and social impact--unsolved diseases of the brain, the heart, and the immune system. Affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, Gladstone is an independent, nonprofit life science research organization that uses visionary science and technology to overcome disease.

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