2023 in Review


2023 was an exciting year for science at NYSCF, with many compelling breakthroughs moving toward the clinic and promising strides in our education and outreach efforts. Read more about our achievements from 2023, and how they will pave the way for 2024. 

Advancing Disease Research Through Drug Screening and AI

At the NYSCF Research Institute, we’ve made exciting strides in developing tools for accelerating research and finding new treatment options for patients.

The NYSCF data science team
  • INAD is a rare neurological disease affecting children. Using stem cells, a team including NYSCF scientists identified new cellular hallmarks of INAD and, crucially, five potential therapies that could reverse them.
  • NYSCF’s latest AI-driven tools called FocA and ScaleFEx are helping scientists accelerate their research by streamlining quality control for cell production and extracting new insights from cell images. Learn more about these tools and how data science powers disease research.
  • Astrocytes – typically helpful brain cells – are known to turn into neuron-killers in diseases like Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis. New research in Glia and Nature Neuroscience from teams including NYSCF scientists shows how these cells sometimes veer protective rather than toxic, as well as how they – along with their support cell counterparts – develop in the first place.

Going to New Heights for Stem Cell Research

Climbers at the summit

This Spring, five patient advocates (Mark McCauley, Dieter Egli, PhD, James Teague, Blake Yaralian, and Knud Nairz, PhD) scaled Denali (the highest mountain peak in North America at 20,308 ft) to raise awareness and funding for stem cell research. They were inspired to take on this challenge in part as a way to honor the memory of NYSCF Founding CEO Susan L. Solomon, along with others close to them who have struggled with, or were lost to, disease. 

Celebrating Science Powered by Patients at the NYSCF Gala & Science Fair

The NYSCF Gala & Science Fair (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

At this year’s Gala, patients took center stage as members of our community shared their journeys as advocates. We also brought our lab to Jazz at Lincoln Center, where our scientists provided exciting updates on how stem cells are paving the way for cures. 

The evening was hosted by Tony-award winning actress Annaleigh Ashford, featured two musical performances from Broadway greats Caissie Levy and Tom Kitt and honored four incredible Stem Cell Heroes: Kay Unger, Feng Zhang, PhD, and Janet & Jerry Zucker.

Showcasing Progress in Regenerative Medicine

Christine Brideau, Dr. Daniel Paull, Dr. Tim Ahfeldt, Dr. Beth Cimini, and Dr. Daniel Ramos discuss drug discovery at the 2023 NYSCF Conference

This October, we hosted the 18th Annual NYSCF Conference at The Rockefeller University, convening over 500 international experts from academia, biotech, and pharma to engage with the latest translational stem cell research. With 26 single-track talks, two panel discussions and the largest poster session to date, the meeting showcased the latest in advanced organoid models, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, autoimmunity, cell therapies, and more.

At the Conference, we also welcomed three new NYSCF – Robertson Investigators to the NYSCF Innovator Community. Learn more about their work in immune surveillance, tissue organization, and reproductive health.

Supporting Groundbreaking Research from Our Innovator Community

Our global community of NYSCF Innovators is pushing the most promising science forward (and into the clinic!) Here’s a few highlights from our outstanding Innovators:

  • A cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease pioneered by NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumna Malin Parmar, PhD, of Lund University has reached its first patient in Swedish clinical trials. The therapy leverages stem cells to introduce healthy dopamine-producing neurons – the cells affected by Parkinson’s disease – into patient brains.
  • Transplanting healthy blood stem cells into mouse models of Alzheimer’s restores key immune functions in the brain, finds a study led by NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus Marius Wernig, MD, PhD, of Stanford Medicine and NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellow Alumnus Yongin Yoo, PhD. This could lead to a potential cell therapy for Alzhiemer’s disease in humans.
  • In an exciting step towards an entirely new class of therapies, the FDA has approved a therapy for sickle cell disease that is the first to employ CRISPR gene editing. Key discoveries by NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators Feng Zhang, PhD, and Vijay Sankaran, MD, PhD paved the way for this landmark approval.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists

This year, we welcomed 26 interns for a summer of hands-on STEM education. Hear from these talented students about their experience at NYSCF and how it has shaped their plans for the future.

We were also excited to launch a Neurodiversity in the Workplace program, in partnership with the Simons Foundation, to create new opportunities for neurodivergent individuals, beginning with enhancing our postgraduate internship program. 

For the third summer in a row, we brought talented young minds to NYSCF for our Stem Cell Research Immersive for High School Students. Through this immersive week-long experience, students had the opportunity to speak with scientists, dive into current topics in research, build professional skills, and even step foot in the lab themselves for a day of scientific exploration.  

Students in the lab for the Summer Immersive

Experts Discuss Latest Breakthroughs with the Public

We spotlighted expert perspectives on some of the most important developments and challenges of the year. Read or watch their takes: