NIH names friend of CIRM as head of its new stem cell center

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health announced this morning that Mahendra Rao will become the first director of the new NIH Intramural Center for Regenerative Medicine (NIH-CRM). It will be good for CIRM to have someone in this new role who is very knowledgable about us and has been an active supporter of the agency. Rao has agreed to be a presenter in a Webinar we arranged for researchers to better understand the regulatory process, served as a speaker at a town forum when we have reached out to the public, and generally lent an ear when we have had questions about industry in the regenerative medicine space.

Rao is also on the research team for a CIRM grant at the Buck Institute, his part time academic appointment. His main day job for the past six years has been as the vice president of regenerative medicine at Life Technologies, based in Carlsbad, California.

An NIH press release quotes Collins as saying:

“Dr. Rao’s varied experience makes him perfectly qualified to bring large groups together in order to move stem cell technologies through clinical trials and beyond to the clinic.”

The release noted that the major goal for the new center is to build upon existing NIH investments, to advance translational studies and ultimately to get cell-based therapies into the treatments offered at the NIH Clinical Center.

Rao is internationally known in the field and has done extensive research with human embryonic stem cells as well as adult stem cells. He has done stints in academia, government and industry. His PhD training provided another bond to California; he studied developmental neurobiology at Cal Tech. Story Landis, chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force commented on his experience in the NIH release:

“He brings extensive experience with human stem cell to the position as well as considerable energy and focus on moving to clinical applications.”