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Straight talk with... Mahendra Rao

Nature Medicine volume 17, page 1163 (2011) | Download Citation


In October 2005, Mahendra Rao shocked the scientific community when he quit his job as head of the US National Institute on Aging's stem cell section and announced plans to go into industry. Rao felt that a ban at the time on federal funding for most human embryonic stem cell research hampered researchers in his division and prohibited him from doing the job he was hired to do. So he joined the research-tool giant Invitrogen (which later became Life Technologies) as vice president of regenerative medicine at the company's Maryland facility.   Six years on, times have changed in the field of stem cell biology: rules governing taxpayer-backed research involving embryonic stem (ES) cells have been relaxed in the US, and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have come into the fray. Prompted by those changes, Rao opted to return to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in August to head the new Intramural Center for Regenerative Medicine. The $52 million center was launched in early 2010 by the agency to develop new therapies using stem cell approaches. With a heightened focus at the NIH on translational medicine, Elie Dolgin spoke to Rao to find out how he plans to turn stem cell discoveries into cell-based therapies.

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