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Miracles in the Making


By Mary Daily

Published Jan 1, 2011 8:00 AM

Chin, who is studying how to modify the immune system to fight bladder cancer, believes he can selectively identify the cell populations in individual cancer patients and test them for sensitivities to chemotherapies before the drugs are administered to the body. This would decrease damage to healthy cells and save valuable treatment time.

In caring for patients, Chin literally touches the desperate need for regenerative medicine and the urgency to find solutions. "We see the suffering and how treatments don't always work and delays occur," he says. "That points us to the problems."

From his surgeries, he has access, with patients' consent, to clinical material for study. Information flows both ways.

A huge UCLA advantage is that "the hospital's right next door," says Chin, sitting in scrubs in his office in the MacDonald Medical Research Laboratory Building and looking much younger than his 37 years. "This morning I made rounds, saw a patient in the clinic, met with people working on a research project and am headed into surgery — all before noon."

Chin joined the medical school faculty last year after earning a UCLA M.D./Ph.D. in 2003. Raised in Palo Alto, he volunteered in a hospital as a teenager and earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton. When he interviewed for medical school at UCLA, Witte was the first person he talked to.

In Chin's Ph.D. program, Witte served on his doctoral committee, and he has remained supportive. "I think he wanted me to have this opportunity to interact with more senior scientists," Chin says of his work with the center.

All the young scientists praise Witte as a leader and mentor. "He takes input, and lots of decisions are made together, but things get done," notes Lowry, who came to UCLA in part because "there wasn't just a collection of people who wanted to do stem cell research; there was an infrastructure and a system. Most of that is a credit to Owen."