Wernig wins stem cell prize, Giocomo named neuroscience investigator

The New York Stem Cell Foundation awarded pathologist Marius Wernig $200,000 to pursue stem cell research, and neurobiologist Lisa Giocomo $1.5 million to expand her lab and train other scientists.

Marius Wernig

The New York Stem Cell Foundation has awarded Marius Wernig, MD, associate professor of pathology, the NYSCF-Robertson Stem Cell Prize, and also named Lisa Giocomo, PhD, an assistant professor of neurobiology, an NYSCF-Robertson Neuroscience Investigator.

The prize, which has been given annually since 2011, recognizes extraordinary achievements in translational stem cell research by a young scientist. Recipients receive a $200,000 stipend to support their research.

Wernig was the first researcher to demonstrate that human skin cells can be converted directly into neurons by adding just four signaling molecules. Previously, it had been believed that specialized cells must first be converted into a pluripotent state before they could be coaxed to become other cell types. Wernig went on to show that a similar procedure works in mice to create oligodendrocyte precursor cells, which wrap nerve cells in the insulating myelin sheaths that help nerve signals propagate.

Lisa Giocomo

“Dr. Wernig’s groundbreaking research has the potential to accelerate all research on devastating neurodegenerative diseases,” Susan Solomon, CEO and co-founder of the foundation, said in a news release announcing the award Oct. 14. “His work can impact and accelerate research on multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and autism among many other conditions.”

Giocomo, PhD, is one of three neuroscience investigators named this year by the foundation. Investigators receive $1.5 million over the next five years to expand their laboratories and train other scientists. Giocomo studies single-cell biophysics and network dynamics to understand spatial memory and navigation.

“I wish to congratulate Dr. Giocomo and Dr. Wernig on these prestigious awards,” said Lloyd Minor, dean of the School of Medicine. “Stanford is a leader in stem cell research, and I am most grateful to the New York Stem Cell Foundation for this latest support and recognition of our outstanding faculty and their achievements in neuroscience and translational stem cell research.”

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