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Final Workshop

Final results will be presented at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA. Room 110 from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Although it is a free workshop, registration is required. To register, visit http://www.wtec.org/SCE/workshop

Introduction to the Study

This document describes a brief plan for a worldwide assessment of the R&D in Stem Cells Engineering (SCE). The study is aimed at determining the status and trends of research and development in this field in the leading laboratories and organizations via an on-site peer review process developed at the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC), Inc. WTEC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) research institute, which is a spin-off of Loyola University Maryland. Since 1989, WTEC has provided such assessment studies in more than 60 fields of R&D under peer-reviewed grants from NSF. Other agencies, including several institutes of NIH, NASA, NIST, FDA, and various offices from DOE and DOD, have co-sponsored these studies with financial support through interagency transfers to NSF. Recent WTEC studies related to this study include: Mobility Research (2011), Nanotechnology 2011, Brain-Computer Interfaces 2007, Systems Biotechnology 2004, Biosensing 2003, and Tissue Engineering (2003). Final reports from these and all the other WTEC studies are posted at: http://www.wtec.org


Background

A preliminary workshop on Stem Cell Research for Regenerative Medicine (RM) and Tissue Engineering (TE)(1) was held at NSF on February 1-2, 2007. It was sponsored by NSF and NIH and facilitated by WTEC. The workshop speakers presented an overview of the research activities in North America. The workshop confirmed the increasing convergence of these research areas in the drive toward clinical solutions for the deterioration of various human organs impacted by injury or disease. The workshop revealed that, although substantial research has been accomplished, there was much to be done to meet any expectations of completed translations for improvement of human health and commercial success. It was also clear that there was much to be learned abroad--other nations have been making rapid progress while the US research community has been handicapped by Federal restrictions. (1)

In May 2010, NSF and others funded the Second International Conference on Stem Cell Engineering in Boston, MA. The conference emphasized how research in stem cell biology and engineering can combine to aid in the development of stem cell therapeutics and bioprocesses (2). The goal of the conference was to accelerate progress towards innovative solutions to basic and translation problems in regenerative medicine. Topics emphasized how quantitative approaches could yield an increased understanding of the biological mechanisms that underlie these stem cell fate choices, cancer stem cells, induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells, technologies to study stem cell function, and the development of bioprocesses to culture stem cells for commercial applications.

Bibliometric studies show the skyrocketing interest in the field-from 360 papers worldwide in 2005 to almost 1000 four years later. The US leads the world in stem cell engineering, but not by much: the EU as a whole is essentially equal to the US, as is a group of five top Asian countries. There are clearly valuable opportunities to learn from research in stem cell engineering overseas.

The tiny island-state of Singapore offers a remarkable example of what can be accomplished in research with a combination of dedication, generous funding, and an enlightened attitude towards research. A recent study in the leading industry journal Cell Stem Cell, ranked Singapore fourth behind Britain, Israel and China, after looking at papers published on breakthroughs in the field. Ironically, the study identified the US, France and Japan as underperformers. These three nations have one thing in common - an uncertain research environment arising from the protracted policy debates over ethical issues surrounding stem cells (3).


About NSF
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2009, its budget is $9.5 billion, which includes $3.0 billion provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 44,400 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards.MORE