Yale School of Medicine Appoints Director of Stem Cell Program

One of the country’s leading stem cell biologists, Haifan Lin, has been appointed director of the Yale Stem Cell Program effective September 1, Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern announced this week.

Lin, currently a cell biology professor and co-director and co-founder of the Duke (University) Stem Cell Research Program, will oversee a group of a half-dozen scientists devoted to research into fundamental aspects of stem cell biology. Areas of research will include the properties and mechanisms of human embryonic stem cells, human adult stem cells, and stem cells in model organisms such as mouse, fruit fly and nematode. The program will bring together more than 30 additional faculty members across the medical school and university who are working on stem cell-related topics.

“Yale is fortunate to have recruited a scientist of such preeminence as Haifan Lin to lead our stem cell effort,” Alpern said. “His research on the most basic mechanisms of stem cell biology has had a tremendous impact on the field and provides him with a broad perspective to lead Yale’s program.”

Diane Krause, M.D., associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology, will be associate director of the Yale program. The center will occupy one floor of the Amistad Building, which is now under construction and slated for occupancy next year.

Lin received his undergraduate degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in 1990. He completed his postdoctoral training at the Carnegie Institution of Washington before becoming a faculty member at Duke in 1994.

Lin’s research has greatly strengthened understanding of the molecular mechanisms that define the unique behavior of stem cells. His early contributions include identification of stem cells in the Drosophila ovary and establishment of these stem cells as an effective model for study. Using this model, Lin obtained direct evidence for the century-old hypothesis for “asymmetric division” of stem cells, which allows them both to self-renew and to produce differentiated daughter cells.

He was also the first to identify and name “niche signaling cells” in the fly model and has been a key player in systematically demonstrating the longstanding “stem cell niche theory” on the essential role of microenvironment signaling in stem cells self-renewal. In the process, Lin discovered key genes involved in both niche signaling and intracellular regulation of stem cell division.

Lin has extensive leadership experience in the stem cell field. He initiated and cofounded the Duke Stem Cell Research Program, which includes 32 research and clinical laboratories. He is also a founding officer of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and an invited delegate to the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine Strategic Planning Conference. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Stem Cell and has been invited by Nature to be a founding expert contributor to Nature Stem Cell Forum, which is scheduled for inauguration in November.

The Yale Stem Cell Program will grow over the next few years with the recruitment of four additional faculty members and an administrative and technical staff. Three initial core facilities are planned: a human embryonic stem cell culture core laboratory directed by Lin and Krause; a cell sorting core directed by Mark Shlomchik, M.D., professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology, and a confocal microscopy core directed by Michael Nathanson, M.D., professor of medicine and cell biology.

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