John Gearhart, Stem Cell Pioneer, Named Penn's Institute for Regenerative Medicine Director and PIK Professor

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Media Contact:Jordan Reese | | 215-573-6604July 23, 2008

PHILADELPHIA –- John Gearhart, who led a research team that first identified and isolated human embryonic stem cells, has been named director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and also a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor.

Gearhart is the James W. Effron University Professor at Penn. His appointment is jointly shared between the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Animal Biology in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

"John Gearhart combines cutting-edge research, education and public service in regenerative medicine," Penn President Amy Gutmann said. "His decision to join the Penn faculty will lead our stem cell research program to global preeminence, and bolster Penn's already strong commitment to translational bench-to-bedside research.

"America's continued vitality, growth and health," she said, "depend directly on our nation's commitment to scientists and scientific research. We expect that Dr. Gearhart and his colleagues will help to galvanize public support for indisputably crucial stem cell research initiatives."

Gearhart has been a leading advocate for the federal funding of stem cell research. His groundbreaking work focuses on the role of genes in regulating the formation of human tissues and embryos, especially as it relates to mental
retardation, Down syndrome and other congenital birth defects.

"John Gearhart's arrival reaffirms Penn's place at the forefront of medical and scientific research," Penn Provost Ron Daniels said. "He is the ideal director for our new Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as he has been a leader in both research breakthroughs and public discussion."

Gearhart also becomes the eighth Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor. The PIK program was launched by Gutmann in 2005 as a University-wide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are jointly appointed between two schools at Penn.

Gearhart was previously the C. Michael Armstrong Professor of Medicine and the director of stem cell biology and the Division of Developmental Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in genetics in 1970 from Cornell University, M.Sc. in plant genetics in 1966 from the University of New Hampshire and B.Sc. in biology in 1964 from Penn State University.

The James W. Effron University Professorship is the gift of Craig W. Effron, a 1981 Penn graduate. The professorship is named in honor of his father, James W. Effron.

Craig Effron, a founding partner of Scoggin Capital Management, a hedge fund in New York, is a member of the University Committee on Undergraduate Financial Aid, co-chair of the Major Gift Committee of Penn's Making History fund-raising campaign and a strong advocate for making Penn more financially accessible.

To offer incentives for scholarship gifts, he created the Craig Effron Challenge Fund to provide matching dollars for new scholarship funds.