Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, PhD, was announced today as the recipient of the 2022 Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize by Gladstone Institutes. Izpisua Belmonte is director of the San Diego Institute of Science of Altos Labs, a new life sciences company focused on restoring cell health and resilience through cellular rejuvenation programming.
Izpisua Belmonte was chosen for the honor because of his work leading to innovations in cellular rejuvenation programming and its promise for the improvement of aging and age-associated diseases. His team has discovered that cell programming can reset a cell’s aging clock, allowing organs to regenerate and rejuvenate, disease progression to improve, and healthy life span to increase in mammals. In 2018, TIME magazine included Izpisua Belmonte on its list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in Healthcare” for his research on growing and regenerating human organs.
“We are pleased to award this year’s prize to Dr. Izpisua Belmonte,” says Deepak Srivastava, MD, a member of the selection committee and president of Gladstone. “Aging is one of the most significant challenges facing the world today and is a major risk factor for many of the unsolved diseases that Gladstone investigators are working to address. Dr. Izpisua Belmonte’s work could lead to new therapies for age-related illnesses and increasing health span.”
“I am deeply humbled that our work on genetic and epigenetic editing, as well as regenerative and stem-cell techniques, is helping inform a better understanding of how to program and regenerate cells’ function.”
The Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize was established in 2015 by a generous gift from the late Hiro and Betty Ogawa. By creating this award, the Ogawa family sought to motivate and support individual scientists or doctors conducting groundbreaking work in translational regenerative medicine using reprogrammed cells. The prize is supported by Gladstone and Cell Press group.
The prize also recognizes the groundbreaking work of Gladstone Senior Investigator and Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, who first discovered the potential of reprogramming adult cells to a stem cell fate. Izpisua Belmonte’s work builds directly on this discovery, utilizing the “Yamanaka factors” to rejuvenate aged cells.
“It is a privilege and honor to receive the Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize for my research on novel stem cell models of human organ generation and regeneration,” says Izpisua Belmonte. “I am deeply humbled that our work on genetic and epigenetic editing, as well as regenerative and stem-cell techniques, is helping inform a better understanding of how to program and regenerate cells’ function. I’m hopeful that when combined with the work of many other researchers, our discoveries will contribute to the elimination of disease and improve human health span.”
For nearly 30 years, Izpisua Belmonte was a faculty member at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, attaining the rank of professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory and holding the Roger Guillemin Chair. He received an MSc in pharmacology from the University of Valencia and a PhD in biochemistry and pharmacology from University of Bologna and the University of Valencia. After postdoctoral positions at the European Molecular Biology Laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany, and at the University of California, Los Angeles, he joined Salk Institute in 1993 and later also became the director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona.
Izpisua Belmonte was selected by an independent committee of international stem cell experts from a highly competitive pool of nominees. A ceremony will be held on November 17, 2022, at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California, during which he will give a scientific lecture and will be presented with the award, along with an unrestricted prize of $150,000 USD.
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To ensure our work does the greatest good, Gladstone Institutes focuses on conditions with profound medical, economic, and social impact—unsolved diseases. Gladstone is an independent, nonprofit life science research organization that uses visionary science and technology to overcome disease. It has an academic affiliation with UC San Francisco.
A biochemist and developmental biologist, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, PhD, is director of the San Diego Institute of Science of Altos Labs, a life sciences company focused on restoring cell health and resilience through cellular rejuvenation programming. Previously, he was the Roger Guillemin Chair and a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, as well as director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona.
He received an MSc in pharmacology from the University of Valencia and a PhD in biochemistry and pharmacology from University of Bologna and the University of Valencia. He completed his postdoctoral training at the European Molecular Biology Laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany, and at the University of California, Los Angeles.
During his time at Salk, Izpisua Belmonte pioneered innovations in developmental biology, organ and tissue regeneration, and aging research. At Altos Labs, he is developing technologies to program cells to states similar to those observed in the early, healthy stages of human life, with the objective of uncovering universal health therapeutics to restore cellular resilience, overcome human fragility and disease, and ultimately increase health span.
Over the course of his career, Izpisua Belmonte has published over 500 scientific papers. He was named one of the “50 Most Influential People in Healthcare” in 2018 by TIME magazine, and received several awards in recognition of his research, including medals from the Royal Academy of Pharmacy of Spain and the Royal Academy of Medicine of Spain, the Gold Medal of the Board of Castilla-La Mancha, several honorary doctorates, the National Science Foundation Creativity Award, the National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award, and the President William Clinton Career Award.
The Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize recognizes individuals whose original translational research has advanced cellular reprogramming technology for regenerative medicine. Supported by Gladstone Institutes, in partnership with Cell Press group, the prize was established in 2015 through a generous gift from the late Betty and Hiro Ogawa and has been maintained through their sons, Andrew and Marcus Ogawa. It honors the Ogawas’ memory by continuing the philanthropic legacy they shared during their 46-year marriage. It also recognizes the importance of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), discovered by Gladstone Senior Investigator and Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD.
Past recipients include Masayo Takahashi, MD, PhD, in 2015; Douglas Melton, PhD, in 2016; Lorenz Studer, MD, in 2017; Marius Wernig, MD, PhD, in 2018; and Gordon Keller, PhD, in 2019.
The 2022 selection committee was composed of George Daley, MD, PhD, dean of Harvard Medical School; Hideyuki Okano, MD, PhD, dean of the School of Medicine at Keio University; Deepak Srivastava, MD, president of Gladstone Institutes and director of the Roddenberry Stem Cell Center at Gladstone; Lorenz Studer, MD, director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Fiona Watt, FRS, FMedSci, director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College, London; and Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, senior investigator at Gladstone and professor in the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University.