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November 16, 2009

CiRA appoints six new principal investigators

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Takashi AoiHidetoshi Sakurai
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Yoshinori YoshidaMasato Nakagawa
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Keisuke OkitaKazutoshi Takahashi

November 16, 2009 - CiRA is pleased to announce the appointments of six new principal investigators (PI) -- Takashi Aoi, Hidetoshi Sakurai, Yoshinori Yoshida, Masato Nakagawa, Keisuke Okita, and Kazutoshi Takahashi. The total number of PIs reaches 17. In addition, Yoshiki Sawa, a professor at Osaka university, has joined CiRA as a visiting professor to CiRA.

These changes are expected to enhance basic research of iPS cells and reinforce CiRA's system to advance pre-clinical and clinical research.

Aoi, a former assistant professor in CiRA Director Shinya Yamanaka's laboratory, belongs to the Core Facilities Department while Sakurai, who was previously a researcher at CiRA, works for the Differentiation Induction Department. Yoshida, Nakagawa, Okita, and Takahashi, all of whom served as assistant professors in Yamanaka's lab, continue to be part of the Basic Biology Department.

Sawa will provide necessary advice on research activities at CiRA and collaborate with CiRA researchers to realize clinical research. Working as a surgeon, he leads research in regenerative medicine for cardiovascular diseases as director of the Medical Center for Translational Research at Osaka University Hospital. He is one of the Kyoto University Group members of the Leading Project for the Realization of Regenerative Medicine established under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Earlier this year, Sawa reported his team for the first time in the world succeeded in improving conditions of mice suffering from a heart attack by using iPS cell-derived cardiomyocytes.

After graduatinh from Kobe University School of Medicine and working as a physician, Aoi obtained a Ph.D. in gastroenterological medicine from Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. He is the lead author of the 2008 paper on the establishment of iPS cells derived from cells of mouse stomach and liver. Aoi will focus his efforts to launch a cell processing center to be built in the new CiRA facilities, which will open next spring, and to set up an iPS cell bank in the future.

Sakurai, who graduated from Nagoya University School of Medicine, served as a physician specializing in kidney diseases and shaped his career as a scientist at Riken Center for Developmental Biology and Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine. As a PI, he aims to build up a system for induction differentiation of mouse and human iPS cells into mesodermal progenitor cells, including skeletal muscle cells and cartilages, by administering various growth factors.

After graduating from Kyoto University School of Medicine, Yoshida served as a physician and later obtained a Ph.D from Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. He worked for the Dept. of Cardiovascular Medicine at Kyoto University Hospital as an assistant professor and moved to Yamanaka's lab. He is the lead author of a 2009 paper reporting that the efficiency of establishment of mouse and human iPS cells was improved with low oxygen culture. Yoshida will work on evaluation of iPS cells and their safety and endeavor to develop safe and efficient generation methods of iPS cells with the examination of culture conditions and differentiation of cardiomyocytes.

Nakagawa studied the basics of biological chemistry and cellular biology at Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) after graduating from Sophia University's Department of Science and Technology. He later joined Yamanaka's lab at NAIST and moved to Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University, with Yamanaka. In 2007, he, as a lead author, published a paper on the generation of mouse and human iPS cells by inducing three genes (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4) excluding carcinogenic gene, c-Myc. Nakagawa will continue to challenge unsolved issues such as mechanisms for establishing iPS cells by analyzing functions of pluripotency-induction factors.

Okita, who majored in veterinary medicine at Hokkaido University, passed through a doctoral program at Graduate School of Medicine, Kumamoto University. He joined Yamanaka's Lab and worked as an assistant professor. He is the lead author of the 2008 paper reporting the successful establishment of mouse iPS cells without using retroviral vector. His main theme as a PI is to contribute to establishment of clinical-grade iPS cells by further studying pluripotency and safety of iPS cells.

Takahashi, who majored in physical and chemical engineering at Doshisha University, advanced to NAIST and became one of the inaugural members of the Yamanaka lab there. He moved to Kyoto University with his boss and other lab members. He is the first author of the 2006 paper reporting the first success in establishing mouse iPS cells in the world. He aspires to contribute to the generation of clinical-grade iPS cells. His goals are to stabilize cultural conditions, a common issue for ES cells and iPS cells, and to formulate a quality evaluation system for iPS cells.

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