Vatican Welcomes Two Vienna BioCenter Scientists

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences Invites IMBA Director Jürgen Knoblich and IMP Scientist Elly Tanaka to the Vatican for a Meeting on Stem Cell Research

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an independent and non-sectarian group, invited 20 of the most visible stem cell biologists in the world to the Vatican. Jürgen Knoblich, Scientific Director, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, was among them. Knoblich is regarded as the first scientist in Austria to use human embryonic stem cells. Knoblich was joined by Senior Scientist Elly Tanaka, Institute of Molecular Pathology.

The “Workshop on Stem Cells and Their Promise for Regenerative Medicine” highlighted the importance of ethical debates in the field of stem cell research and the willingness and interest of scientists to engage in ethical discussions. The attending scientists discussed stem cell therapies in the fields of macular degeneration, skin therapies, and Parkinson’s disease amongst other topics. In a nod to the success of the fields, Knoblich called some of these therapies very close to clinical trials.

At the meeting, Knoblich described the use of stem cells in model systems as an advanced tool for regenerative medicine. More specifically, he communicated his research on brain organoids and enunciated their value in modeling disease. In its conference booklet, the Academy stated some cultured organoids “may replace organ transplants from donors and open the way to regenerative medicine.”

Knoblich summarized his thoughts about the meeting in the following way, “In a time where the medical application of stem cells becomes a reality, we should not forget to continue nurturing curiosity-driven research to lay the ground for curing the incurable and for the future development of therapies that seem unthinkable now.”

A review of Knoblich’s work will be published as part of a book from the Vatican. Knoblich has been a member of The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an academic organization that advises the Vatican and is independent from the jurisdiction of the Vatican since August 18, 2020. The Annual Assembly of the Academy convenes in September, where he will meet Pope Francis and be formally inducted. Visit the Academy’s website for more information about Knoblich’s membership.

IMBA Scientific Director Jürgen Knoblich is also Professor in Synthetic Biology at the Medical University of Vienna.