OCTANe Innovation Series: Stem Cell Research and Commercialization Update

OCTANe's Innovation Series brings together researchers and business people

Join us as we get the latest updates from a panel of experts in the stem cell field. We will hear about cutting edge research, commercialization efforts, and the latest in research funding and policy matters.


Hans Keirstead, Ph.D. 

photo of Hans Keirstead

Dr. Hans Keirstead is Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology and Co-Director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at the UC Irvine Reeve-Irvine Research Center. In 2004, Hans Keirstead led his team of researchers at UC Irvine to successfully develop a human embryonic stem cell derived treatment for acute spinal cord injuries in rats. That treatment was recently approved by FDA for clinical trials in humans with acute spinal cord injuries. The trial, which will be carried out by Geron Corporation, marks the first human embryonic stem cell trial ever approved in the U.S. Dr. Keirstead is also the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board, California Stem Cell, Inc. and Director of the UCI Africa Initiative. 

The Canadian-born neuroscientist received his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His PhD thesis concerned his invention of a novel method for regenerating damaged spinal cords, and formed the basis of several worldwide patents as well as the formation of a company in 1999. This work constituted the first demonstration of functional regeneration of the injured adult spinal cord, and for his achievements he received the Cameron Award for the best PhD thesis in Canada.

Phillip Schwartz, Ph.D

photo of Phillip Schwartz

Trained at UCLA's Brain Research Institute, Dr. Schwartz is a full-time stem cell biologist and holds the Senior Scientist position at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) Research Institute. Dr. Schwartz is the Director and Founder of the National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource, and an Associate Research Biologist at the University of California, Irvine.

Dr. Schwartz' early work included studies of several models of energy failure-induced brain damage as well as preclinical and clinical studies of pharmacologic agents aimed at maintaining cerebral perfusion and/or neuroprotection. This work involved translational research aimed toward improving the treatment of neonatal and pediatric intensive care unit patients with brain injury and disease. For the last thirteen years, he has been involved in the harvest of neural stem cells in human brains from patients that have died with neurogenetic disease and the research in his laboratory is directed towards understanding the factors influencing the behavior of neural stem cells in the normal and neurogenetically diseased brain. Much of this work has been directed towards evaluating the efficacy of neural stem cell transplantation in animal models of degenerative eye diseases and of neurogenetic disease. This latter work has direct application to the clinical use of stem cells for the treatment of children with neurodevelopmental disorders, the major clinical focus of Dr. Schwartz and his clinical colleagues at CHOC. More recent work is focused on using neural stem cells derived from patients with autism in an effort to define new therapeutic and diagnostic targets for this most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder.

Dr. Schwartz’ laboratory currently consists of a PhD Scientist and three Research Associates/Laboratory Technicians. Dr. Schwartz regularly participates in special study sections on stem cells at the NIH and reviews grant applications and manuscripts for a large number of other granting agencies and journals. He has recently been invited to be a regular member of the Developmental Brain Diseases Study Section of the NIH and to be an Editorial (final phase) Reviewer of NIH grant applications that propose to use human pluripotent (embryonic) stem cells. Dr. Schwartz also regularly disseminates stem cell research information to the lay public by way of the print, television, and radio media.

Peter J. Donovan, Ph.D


photo of Peter Donovan

Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology and of Biological Chemistry at the University of California, Irvine and Co-Director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. His laboratory pioneered the development of pluripotent stem cells from primordial germ cells in mice and, with John Gearhart, developed the same cell type from human germ cells. His research interests center around the mechanisms regulating developmental potency in germ cells and stem cells. His laboratory was one of the first to receive NIH funding to study human embryonic stem (ES) cells. Until recently he served on one of the few NIH study sections which reviews proposed studies on human ES cells, on the advisory board of the International Society for Stem cell Research and on the board of reviewing editors of the journal Science. Dr. Donovan is the Program Director for the UC Irvine Training Grant in Stem Cell Biology and the Principle Investigator for the UC Irvine Shared Research Laboratory and Stem Cell Techniques Course, both funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. He has acted as Chair or Co-Chair of many international conferences including a Keystone Symposium on Germ Cell Development and a Foundation for Advanced Cancer Studies Symposium on Stem Cells. In 2007, Dr. Donovan acted as Co-Organizer together with Susan Bryant and Douglas Wallace of the Sackler Colloquium of the National Academies of Sciences on “Therapeutic Cloning”. He serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Max Plank Institute for Biomolecular Medicine in Munster, Germany and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Hinxton Group, an international group that examines the ethical, moral and legal issues associated with stem cell research.


Lawrence B. Cohn,

Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth

Lawrence B. Cohn represents medical device, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and investors in their corporate transactions, private venture capital and public securities financings, mergers and acquisitions, licensing, strategic alliances, and technology transfers. His clients range from early-stage start-ups to public companies with global operations. 

He received his J.D., magna cum laude, from Loyola Law School in 1984. He received his M.A. in organic chemistry from the University of Oregon in 1973 after earning a B.A. in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1971. From 1974 to 1981, he was a research chemist and manager in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Recognized as one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in Life Sciences: Commercial (California) by Chambers USA, 2009. Mr. Cohn is a member of the State Bar of California, the Orange County Bar Association, and the Licensing Executives Society.

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