James A. Thomson, V.M.D., Ph.D., 2003 Annunzio Award

Written by on July 10, 2003 in 2003, Researcher, The Annunzio STEM Leadership Award

James Thomson

James A. Thomson, V.M.D., Ph.D., Diplomate A.C.V.P.

John D. McArthur Professor, Department of Anatomy
University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School and
The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center
Madison, Wisconsin

Dr. Thomson was the first to isolate and culture nonhuman primate embryonic stem (ES) cells in 1995, and human ES cells in 1998.

Dr. Thomson’s research goals are to use ES cells to improve knowledge of basic reproductive biology, and to explore using ES-derived cells to treat health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, leukemia and degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis.

Since joining the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in 1991, Dr. Thomson has conducted pioneering work with ES cells. These cells have the ability to become any of the cells that make up the tissues of the body, which will give birth to exploration of the body not previously imagined. ES cell lines have widespread implications for human developmental biology, drug discovery, drug testing and transplantation medicine.

This research is exciting because stem cells are immortal and have an almost unlimited developmental potential. After months or years of growth in culture dishes, these cells retain the ability to form cells ranging from heart muscle to nerve to blood-potentially any cell type that makes up the body.

Dr. Thomson’s research has encouraged scientists around the world, and stem cells have been successfully differentiated into precursors for brain, heart, blood and pancreatic tissue, to name a few. The proliferative and developmental potential of human ES cells promises an essentially unlimited supply of specific cell types for in vitro experimental studies and for transplantation therapies for heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and leukemia.

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is honored to have had the assistance of the following distinguished individuals serving on the 2003 Frank Annunzio Awards Evaluation Committee:

Anthony Atala, M.D. – Associate Professor of Surgery at Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Atala was the recipient of the 2000 $100,000 Christopher Columbus Foundation Award.
John A. Kleppe, Ph.D., P.E. – Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Gina Ryan – Former Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Society of Women Engineers, Chicago, Illinois.
Fenella Saunders – Science Writer/Editor for the New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York.
Neill S. Smith, Ph.D. – Senior Engineer, Vehicle Control Technologies, Reston, Virginia.


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