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Local Researchers Present at Vatican Cell Conference

May 27, 2016 09:00AM ● By MED Magazine

Sanford Health’s work in cellular therapy and regenerative medicine earned a team of its top researchers and administrators a trip to the Vatican in April as part of an international conference.


The Third International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact is part of a collaboration between The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture foundation, Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest, and The Stem For Life Foundation, a not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing global awareness of regenerative medicine and cell therapy.


“I honestly think that what they did is fantastic because there is a lot of misunderstand around stem cell research,” Sanford’s head of research, David Pearce, PhD, told MED. “People tend to think of embryonic stem cells, but there is a great deal of potential in adult stem cell research and the church recognizes that.”


During the three-day conference, Pearce presented to a 300-person crowd of scientists, physicians, faith leaders, journalists and others on Sanford’s ongoing cell therapy work in rare diseases and its effort to cure type 1 diabetes through The Sanford Project.


“They were three very long days, but it was such an honor for us to be there,” says Pearce. “We don’t necessarily always attract this kind of attention because of where we are.”


Other Sanford presenters at the conference included Jill Weimer, PhD, who spoke on progress in Batten Disease, a rare childhood condition for which Sanford Research has developed a new cell-therapy method. Eckhard Alt, MD, PhD, was the third local researcher to present.


During the conference, Sanford was also presented with The Pontifical Key Innovation Award in recognition of medical innovation, transformative thinking, creativity and ingenuity.


Pearce and his colleagues wrapped up the experience with a concert by U2 guitarist, The Edge, in the Sistine Chapel. “We were a bit spoiled in the end,” says Pearce.