|Elena Cattaneo, EuroStem Photo|
UC Davis researcher Paul Knoepfler announced his choice this morning on his blog, ipscell.com. Knoepfler began the contest last year and personally provides the $1,000 award. The first winner was Roman Reed, a California patient advocate.
In Knoepfler's announcement, he cited Cattaneo's work on neural stem cells, particularly in connection with possible therapies for Huntington's Disease. Cattaneo is director and co-founder of the Unistem, the center for stem cell research at the University of Milano, Italy, and has been appointed a senator for life in Italy.
Knoepfler also said,
"She is that rare stem cell scientist who goes well above and beyond the call of academic duty to act as an advocate as well."He said that she has "a track record of taking important public stands on key issues over the years."
Most recently, Knoepfler cited her efforts in connection with an organization called Stamina in Italy that was providing a stem cell therapy to large numbers of patients. The treatment this month was banned from testing in Italy after a panel of scientists determined it was excessively risky and not supported by evidence.
The decision followed a campaign by Cattaneo and others. Knoepfler wrote,
"She and a dozen fellow Italian scientists stood up to what was a flawed Italian governmental decision to allow Stamina to proceed with a gutsy letter. It takes courage to not only do your research, but also to take a stand against your own government's flawed decision and ultimately prevail. Her actions have helped to keep thousands of patients safer and protect the stem cell field."Her efforts and those of others inspired a play called "Staminalia: A Dream and a Trial," which premiered in Portugal in 2010. According to the EuroStemCell Web site, the play "goes beyond the science of stem cells to tell the story of a stem cell researcher and a mother who sees ethical and political limitations impacting not only into her scientific freedom, but also into her private life."