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Miracles in the Making


By Mary Daily

Published Jan 1, 2011 8:00 AM

All Together Now


Image provided by the Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

In the Biomedical Sciences Research Building, Lowry's lab is one floor above Plath's, and the two scientists talk by phone several times a day, while the postdocs, students and technicians in their labs run up and down the stairs consulting one another.

"For the initial reprogramming experiments, Kathrin and I were side by side at the bench," Lowry says, "but since then it's been more like they'll generate one piece of the puzzle and give it to us and we do the next step and then hand it over to someone else. We work together to mutual benefit."

Steven Peckman, the center's associate director for administration and planning, underscores that it also helps that the Broad scientists work "in a university environment, where collaboration is highly sought and encouraged."

Indeed, the researchers regularly turn to other colleagues with different expertise. "If we have questions, they help us immediately," Plath notes.

And these collaborations extend to engineering, medicine, life sciences, law and the CNSI (California NanoSystems Institute), which houses the most powerful microscope on campus.

The result is exactly what Witte envisioned. From the start, he knew the team would need chemists, physicists, engineers, philosophers and lawyers. "The entire campus was the fuel to build the center," he says.

And, noting the entire university's collective history in advancing medical knowledge in the field, Witte adds, "The number of things [UCLA] has taken from concept into clinical trials is remarkable for the short time we've been doing it."

That movement of discoveries into clinical evaluation — closer to actually helping patients — is the center's overarching goal.

Nowhere is the bench-to-bedside connection more seamless than in the work of Arnold Chin, a urological surgeon in his second year of medical practice and another of Witte's wunderkinds.