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New NIH stem-cell director shares his thoughts

There's a Q&A with Mahendra Rao, MD, PhD, the first director of the NIH Intramural Center for Regenerative Medicine,  over at Spoonful of Medicine today. Rao took the reins of the new, $52-million, seven-year center last month, and he had some something interesting things to say about his new place of employment:

Are you worried that the new center’s efforts could be derailed given the recent litigation surrounding the NIH’s stem cell policy?

I have to admit that was one of concerns when I took the job. The problem is that there’s no way to predict the future. But there’s a commitment from the NIH that this [new center] will be at least a five- to seven-year experiment. Maybe in two years’ time policies will change or the Supreme Court will rule differently, but we will still have a path to get things done.

What sets the regenerative medicine center apart from other academic institutes dedicated to stem cell technologies?

Neither in size nor in scientific quality could one say that this center is any different from some of the other more established centers. However, there are two crucial differences. One, this is a government center, and the government’s mandate is different than that at any other center. So, that’s a really important distinction. The second thing is that the center doesn’t function in isolation. It’s what’s around it that makes it very useful, and what’s around it is a whole lot of infrastructure and investment that’s gone in to building up a way to take things from the bench to the bedside. There are two really important pieces to that in the NIH Chemical Genomics Center and the NIH Clinical Center. Both of them are widely recognized, state of the art, best in class type of centers.

Previously: After the lawsuit, what’s next for stem cell research?

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