National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has announced the appointment of Mahendra S. Rao, M.D., Ph.D. as the director for the new NIH Intramural Center for Regenerative Medicine (NIH-CRM).
The NIH-CRM is an initiative to create a world-class center of excellence in stem cell technology on the NIH campus, including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which can have applications in many systems and organs of the body.
This is an initiative of the NIH Common Fund and will be administered by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
“Dr. Rao’s varied experience makes him perfectly qualified to bring large groups together in order to move stem cell technologies through clinical trials and beyond to the clinic,” Collins said.
A major goal for the center is to build upon existing NIH investments in stem cell research to advance translational studies and ultimately cell-based therapies in the NIH Clinical Center.
The center will also serve as a resource for the scientific community, providing stem cells, as well as the supporting protocols and standard operating procedures used to derive, culture, and differentiate them into different cell types.
In addition to his NIH-CRM Director position, Dr. Rao will hold a joint research appointment in NIAMS and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
NIAMS Scientific Director Dr. John O’Shea noted, “Dr. Rao is an ideal choice to lead the NIH-CRM at this pivotal time for stem cell research. His unique background will serve him and the center well as we move forward to fulfill the great promise of stem cell technology.”
“I am delighted that Dr. Rao has been selected to lead NIH-CRM,” said Story C. Landis, Ph.D., NINDS director and chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task force. “He brings extensive experience with human stem cells to the position as well as considerable energy and focus on moving to clinical applications.”
Dr. Rao is internationally renowned for his research involving human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and other somatic stem cells. He has worked in the stem cell field for more than 20 years, with stints in academia, government and regulatory affairs and industry.
He received his M.D. from Bombay University in India and his Ph.D. in developmental neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. Following postdoctoral training at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, he established his research laboratory in neural development at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
He next joined the National Institute on Aging as chief of the Neurosciences Section, where he studied neural progenitor cells and continued to explore his longstanding interest in their clinical potential. Most recently, he spent six years as the vice president of Regenerative Medicine at Life Technologies, Carlsbad, Calif.
He co-founded Q Therapeutics, a neural stem cell company based in Salt Lake City. He also served internationally on advisory boards for companies involved in stem cell processing and therapy, on committees including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Cellular Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee chair, and as the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and International Society for Stem Cell Research liaison to the International Society for Cellular Therapy.
The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH.