UC Davis stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler has named Roman Reed as his first "Stem Cell Person of the Year" awardee.
Reed is president of the California-based Roman Reed Foundation and a long-time spinal cord injury (SCI) research and stem cell research advocate. Last year, he expanded his advocacy beyond California and successfully galvanized crucial support for Alabama’s TJ Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Research Act. That legislation earmarks $400,000 a year for research funding.
Knoepfler, an associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy, established the new award to recognize people who have made an outstanding difference in the field of stem cell-based cellular and regenerative medicine and help create more excitement about stem cell science. The honor includes $1,000.
Knoepfler said Reed’s enthusiasm and tireless work made a tremendous difference in 2012.
“Roman has been an inspiration to me and many others,” said Knoepfler. “One of his mottos is ‘A rising tide lifts all,’ and he doesn’t just say that, he lives it. He lifts up many others. Last year, he mentored and energized a whole new generation of advocates so that other people can help make a difference, too.”
Reed suffered a paralyzing injury during a football game in college. California’s “Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act” of 1999 was named in his honor. According to Reed’s foundation, the act has generated more than $12.5 million in state funds and helped leverage an additional $50 million from outside sources for research into spinal cord regeneration.
More than 4,500 online votes were cast among the 16 finalists for the Stem Cell Person of the Year award, which helped guide Knoepfler in his selection of Reed. Runner-up was Leigh Turner, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, whom Knoepfler said took the courageous step of notifying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about one biotech company’s questionable stem cell treatments.
“For years I’ve thought that there are many people in the stem cell field who do not get recognition despite doing amazing things,” said Knoepfler. “Often these heroes make great personal sacrifices to help others. They take risks. They spend their time and often their own money to make a difference.”