More programs, more candles, more light.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Loading the player ...

Panel 3: Question and Answer

CIRM Disease Team Reports

November 30, 2011
13 minutes
Patricia Olson, Dennis Carson, Martin Marsala, Allan Robins, Inder Verma


Patricia Olson: Dr. Olson is responsible for the development, implementation and monitoring of the research funding program of CIRM. She is a former vice president of Chiron Corporation (now Novartis). At Chiron, Dr. Olson led protein therapeutics research, responsible for discovery and preclinical evaluation of candidate therapeutics. Prior to that, she headed portfolio management and strategic planning for the R&D division of Chiron and was a member of the R&D executive committee responsible for oversight and decisions on research, preclinical and clinical development programs. She participated in the development of two marketed products, is an inventor on over 22 issued US patents and an author of over 29 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Olson received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of California at Berkeley and her B.S. in cellular biology (magna cum laude) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dennis Carson: Dr. Carson earned his medical degree from Columbia University and received postgraduate training at The Salk Institute, NIH and UC San Diego. He has founded six biotechnology companies in the fields of cancer and immunology (Vical, Triangle Pharmaceuticals, Dynavax, Salmedix, Telormedix and Wintherix). He is a member the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Carson developed from bench to bedside 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine, which is the treatment of choice for hairy cell leukemia. As cancer center director, his priority was to speed the translation of basic science discoveries into new treatments for cancer patients. As of July 2011, Dr. Carson has returned full time to the laboratory, focusing on cancer progenitor cells.

Martin Marsala: Dr. Marsala has developed and characterized several models of spinal traumatic and ischemic injury and brain ischemia models using rodents and minipigs over the past 20 years. He has characterized behavioral, electrophysiological, and histopathological changes in the brain and spinal cord, leading to a progressive loss of neurological function. More recently, he and his team at UC San Diego have developed a well-defined scientific basis for initiation and preclinical evaluation of cell-replacement based therapies targeted to modulate neurological dysfunction in a variety of spinal neurodegenerative disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal ischemic injury and spinal traumatic injury. Dr. Marsala’s team is currently focusing on the issues surrounding neural engraftment of astrocytes and neural precursor cells generated from hESC. The use of these models will help address critical issues related to clinical translation of cell-based therapies including spinal cord dimensions, optimal cell dosing, maturation profile of engrafted cells and issues related to long term immunosuppression currently required in patients receiving allogeneic cell grafts.

Allan Robins: Dr. Robins received a B.S. with honors in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Adelaide in Australia. He followed his studies with postdoctoral work at Cambridge University in England. In addition to his duties as acting CEO of ViaCyte, Dr. Robins oversees company-wide manufacturing activities along with research operations in Athens, Georgia. Prior to ViaCyte, Dr. Robins served as chief scientific officer at BresaGen, Inc., the United States subsidiary of BresaGen Limited, an Australian biotechnology company that has since been acquired by Hospira, Inc. Under Dr. Robin’s leadership, BresaGen, Inc. was awarded significant support for its stem cell research from the NIH. BresaGen merged with ViaCyte’s predecessor companies in 2004. Prior to BresaGen, Inc., Dr. Robins was chief scientific officer at BresaGen Limited, where he helped raise over $30 million and developed a proprietary expression system which continues to be used in the production of protein pharmaceuticals.

Inder Verma: Dr. Verma received his Ph.D. from Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, in 1971. He continued his postdoctoral training with David Baltimore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1974 and has been a part of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences since 1974. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on the development of viruses for gene therapy vectors. He uses genetically engineered viruses to insert new genes into cells that can then be returned to the body, where they produce the essential protein whose absence causes disease. Dr. Verma’s honors include an American Cancer Society Professorship, fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The ASGT Outstanding Achievement Award, Vilcek Foundation Prize and Pasarow Award in Cancer Research. Dr. Verma has also been granted membership in the Third World Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences in India and National Academy of Sciences, USA.