Based on direction from Chancellor Gillman and Dean Stamos, the April 16 Dean’s Distinguished Lecture will be postponed to a later date due to precautionary measures around COVID-19. For more information on current campus operations, please visit the EH&S website for the official updates.
Thomas R. Cech, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry
Director, BioFrontiers Institute
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of Colorado Boulder
Thomas R. Cech, PhD Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry Director, BioFrontiers Institute Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Colorado Boulder
Dr. Thomas R. Cech was raised and educated in Iowa, earning his BA in chemistry from Grinnell College in 1970. He obtained his PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and then engaged in postdoctoral research in the department of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1978 he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado Boulder, where he became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 1988 and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1990.
In 1982 Dr. Cech and his research group announced that an RNA molecule from Tetrahymena, a single-celled pond organism, cut and rejoined chemical bonds in the complete absence of proteins. This discovery of self-splicing RNA provided the first exception to the long-held belief that biological reactions are always catalyzed by proteins. In addition, it has been heralded as providing a new, plausible scenario for the origin of life; because RNA can be both an information-carrying molecule and a catalyst, perhaps the first self-reproducing system consisted of RNA alone.
In 2000, Dr. Cech moved to Maryland as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which is the largest private biomedical research organization in the U.S. In 2009, Dr. Cech returned to full-time research and teaching at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he also directs the BioFrontiers Institute.
Dr. Cech's work has been recognized by many national and international awards and prizes, including the Heineken Prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1988), the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (1988), the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1989), and the National Medal of Science (1995). In 1987 Dr. Cech was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and also awarded a lifetime professorship by the American Cancer Society.
Maria T. Millan, MD
President and CEO, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
Dr. Maria Millan is a physician-scientist who has devoted her career to treating and developing innovative solutions for children and adults with debilitating and life-threatening conditions. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Duke University where she first entered the arena of immunology research, she returned to her home in New Jersey where she obtained her MD degree and then went on to complete her surgical training and post-doctoral research in Boston at Harvard Medical School – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. After a transplant surgery fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine, she began her academic career with a busy pediatric and adult transplant surgery practice focused on technical advancements and optimization of patient outcomes. In parallel, she continued her bench research at Stanford and was promoted within 5 years to associate professor and director of the Pediatric Organ Transplant Program. She served on multiple leadership teams including the Faculty Senate and the Dean’s faculty committee at Stanford University School of Medicine and served on the Children’s Hospital operations committee. She has published in the areas of cell biology, immunology and clinical organ transplantation.
With early signals from the science that stem cell and regenerative medicine therapy was the new frontier for medicine, she ventured into the private sector in 2006 to join StemCells, Inc., one of the earliest stem cell organizations and the first to enter into an FDA-regulated clinical trial with a stem cell treatment for children with a fatal neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Millan then joined the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in December 2012 where she led the formation of the Alpha Stem Cell Clinics Network, a network of California medical centers that specialize in rigorous and high-quality clinical trials and top-tier medical care for patients participating in these trials. This clinical network is successfully supporting over 45 clinical trials and was recently expanded to include 5 programs composed of 7 medical centers and their affiliated hospitals. As a key component of CIRM’s bold 5-year strategic plan launched in 2016, which was designed to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs, Dr. Millan led the development of critical infrastructure, including specialized regulatory, preclinical research, manufacturing and clinical operations support for stem cell and regenerative medicine trials. In July 2017, Dr. Millan took on the role as president and CEO of CIRM, and she was formally appointed by CIRM’s board in September 2017. Under her leadership, CIRM continues to drive the mission of accelerating stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs, is on track to achieve its 5-year strategic plan, has now funded a total of 45 clinical trials and is continuing to grow this robust portfolio of high-quality programs by the month.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. "CIRM: Accelerating Regenerative Medicine Treatments to Patients with Unmet Medical Needs”
The Beach - UCI Beall Applied Innovation
5141 California Ave., Ste. 200, Irvine, CA 92617
Parking is free. Guests are permitted to park in any unmarked/unreserved green parking stall.