Pediatric blood and marrow transplant physician Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., has been named director of the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute. He will assume the role on January 1, 2013, when the institute’s current director, Jonathan Slack, Ph.D., steps down to return to his native England.
Tolar is currently an associate professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics, where he holds the Albert D. and Eva J. Corniea Chair. He is an expert in the field of pediatric blood and marrow transplantation and director of stem cell/gene therapies in the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.
“Jakub is going to be a superb leader for the Stem Cell Institute. He has a breadth of knowledge and experience that spans the continuum of stem cell science, from fundamental developmental biology to design and conduct of clinical trials,” says Tucker LeBien, Ph.D., the Medical School’s vice dean for research. “The University has been a leader in unlocking the potential of stem cell research, and Jakub will have the opportunity to lead a cohort of talented faculty and students from across the University to harness the potential of stem cell science in research and patient care.”
In his new role, Tolar will oversee the world’s first interdisciplinary institutes dedicated to stem cell research. The Stem Cell Institute draws University faculty from 17 departments and centers participating in stem cell research. These faculty members have secured more than $43 million in funding since 1999 to support research targeting five primary diseases: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurologic disorders, and congenital conditions. Many of these accomplishments would not have been possible without the leadership of the institute’s outgoing director, Jonathan Slack.
“One of Jonathan’s initial contributions to the institute was to establish a facility for creating induced pluripotent stem cells that could be used by investigators throughout the institution to advance stem cell treatments, technology, and clinical approaches,” says LeBien. “He also had his eye on the educational mission of the institute and led the development of a highly successful M.S. degree in stem cell biology.”
Since joining the University of Minnesota from his native Czech Republic in 2005, Tolar has been active in both research and clinical education. His research focuses primarily on cellular therapies, specifically on improving the safety of existing therapies and investigational mechanisms by which stem cell transplantation is effective in repairing damaged tissue.
Tolar maintains a clinical practice through the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and is focused on protocols using hematopoietic stem cell transplant as a treatment for a number of genetic conditions. In 2011, he was named one of the Best Doctors in America.