Many congratulations to our partner, Dr Elena Cattaneo, who is the winner of the 2013 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award run by Dr Paul Knoepfler via his well-known blog. We know Elena not only as a leading scientist, but also as a very active, fantastically energetic and supportive collaborator in public engagement with stem cell research. She’s also recently become a senator. All in all, a great choice for Stem Cell Person of the Year!
There were 30 nominees for this year’s Stem Cell Person of the Year Award, and a total of 4,130 votes were cast by readers of the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog. The top 12 nominees at the close of voting then went forward as finalists, with Paul Knoepfler selected the ultimate winner.
Elena Cattaneo studies the stem cells of the brain, particularly as they relate to developing new therapies for Huntington’s Disease. She is Director and Co-Founder of Unistem, the Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Milano, Italy – not to mention being the driving force behind the fabulous annual UniStem Day for high schools. This year the event connected 15,000 high school students with stem cell researchers in 42 institutions across Italy, Spain, and Scotland, making it the largest stem cell event for schools in Europe. Elena is also the Director of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Pharmacology of Neurodegenerative Diseases in the Department of Pharmacological Sciences.
Her achievements in science are many, including awards such as the “Le Scienze” Price for Medicine and a Gold Medal from the President of the Italian Republic in 2001, the Marisa Bellisario and Chiara D’Onofrio prizes in 2005 and a nomination for the Cavaliere Ufficiale (Knight) of the Italian Republic in 2006.This year she was appointed an EMBO member and a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, Italy’s national science academy.
On top of her great stem cell science, Elena goes well above and beyond the call of academic duty to act as an advocate, both for science and for a developing, inclusive society. She has achieved the uncommon honor of being appointed a Senator For Life by the President of Italy. President Giorgio Napolitano said of his choice of her:
“choosing her is meant as an appreciation and an encouragement for many Italians of the new generations who commit themselves, amid difficulties, to scientific research”.
She has a track record of taking public stands on key issues over the years. For example, she has challenged the role of politics in scientific funding decisions in Italy. This year, alongside a dozen fellow Italian scientists she also argued strongly against the widely condemned operations of the Stamina Foundation in Italy.
On his selection of Elena as winner of Stem Cell Person of the Year 2013, Knoepfler says:
“It takes courage to not only do your research, but also to take a stand against your own government’s flawed decision and ultimately prevail. Her actions have helped to keep thousands of patients safer and protect the stem cell field. Cattaneo is a true Renaissance woman in science and in the stem cell field. She has excelled at science and advocacy. She even was the inspiration for a play about stem cells.”
As the winner of the award, Cattaneo receives a $1,000 USD prize and recognition as the person with the top positive impact in the global stem cell field in 2013.
Elena reacted with pleasure, thanks and a call to all stem cell scientists to do more beyond their science:
“I want to thank Paul for this award, but even more I want to thank him for his incredible job as a science blogger. His pieces are extremely useful, rigorous and inspirational for us all. We need to do more to accompany the development of our societies – discussing science with everyone, not only with each other, is a central and important part of what we scientists should all be doing.”