NEWS | March 27, 2013

UC Davis stem cell scientist wins elevator pitch challenge


UC Davis stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler has added a unique honor to his curriculum vitae: He is among the winners of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (CIRM) first-ever Elevator Pitch Challenge, which were announced today.

The state stem cell agency’s idea was to have scientists try to explain in about 30 seconds or less — the time it takes an elevator to go a few floors — what they do, why it’s important and why the public should care. To make it doubly difficult, the researchers were told they couldn’t use any scientific jargon.

Knoepfler, an associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy, placed third among lead scientists (those scientists who have their own labs or have been doing research for quite some time) who participated in the contest. His elevator pitch can be seen here.

CIRM’s goal with its Elevator Pitch Challenge is to help researchers do a better job of communicating about the promise of regenerative medicine with the public. It invited any researcher who has received funding from the agency to prepare a quick pitch, making sure it was short, simple and easy to understand. The winners are role models in how the complexities of stem cell research can be made more accessible and understandable to non-scientists.

Knoepfler, whose CIRM-funded research explores how the biological behavior of stem and cancer cells is controlled, was among the 57 entrants from 18 different institutions who submitted videos. All of the entries are available on the CIRM website.  And like the elevator pitch itself, the prize for the top winner in each of three categories had to be simple and easy-to-use: a $50 gift card.

UC Davis is playing a leading role in regenerative medicine, with nearly 150 scientists working on a variety of stem cell-related research projects at campus locations in both Davis and Sacramento. The UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), opened in 2010 on the Sacramento campus. This $62 million facility is the university's hub for stem cell science. It includes Northern California's largest academic Good Manufacturing Practice laboratory, with state-of-the-art equipment and manufacturing rooms for cellular and gene therapies. UC Davis also has a Translational Human Embryonic Stem Cell Shared Research Facility in Davis and a collaborative partnership with the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine at Shriners Hospital for Children Northern California. All of the programs and facilities complement the university's Clinical and Translational Science Center, and focus on turning stem cells into cures. For more information, visit