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Dr. Anthony Atala keynote speaker at WFU Law School’s regenerative medicine symposium

Dr. Anthony Atala, the head of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, was the keynote speaker for the Wake Forest University School of Law Intellectual Property Law Journal’s Feb. 6 symposium on regenerative medicine.

Dr. Atala talked about the history behind regenerative medicine, his lab’s accomplishments and what lies ahead in the field.

“This started over 50 years ago but we’re still dealing with the same challenges — organ shortage and organ rejection ,” Atala explained. “This is really due to our aging population. The number of patients waiting for transplants has doubled in the past decade but the number of transplants have remained the same. ”

The symposium, “Regenerative Medicine – The Crossroads: Examining the Research from Every Angle,” featured experts covering a variety of areas relating to regenerative medicine, including the ethical debate, patentability issues and their implications and the commercialization of the research.

Scientists in the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine use the body’s power to replicate body parts, including muscle tissue, blood vessels and whole organs. The field holds much promise in developing ways to combat numerous diseases and conditions. There are, however, a variety of debates that surround it, such as the ethics of stem cell research, the patentability of the technology being utilized and the tissues and organs being regenerated, and how the research and technology will be commercialized and utilized in medicine.

Dr. Atala represents the pinnacle of this field and has captured national media attention including being named by Esquire magazine as one of the “Best and Brightest,” a celebration of Americans committed to positive change. In 2006, he was named by Fast Company magazine as one of 50 people who “will change how we work and live over the next 10 years.” His lab was the first to successfully use regenerative medicine technology to develop and implant a human organ – a bladder.

“The whole area of regenerative medicine I think is one of the path breaking research areas of the 21st century and I’m so glad that IPLJ has taken this on in a symposium and bringing together the best that Wake Forest has to offer,” said School of Law Dean Blake Morant during his introduction of Dr. Atala.

Other speakers included Nancy King, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Division of Public Health Sciences; Lance Stell, Davidson College; Wilson Parker, Wake Forest University School of Law; and Steve Nickles, Wake Forest University School of Law, Babcock Graduate School of Management, and Divinity School, who discussed the ethical issues in the field of regenerative medicine.

Charles Calkins, Kilpatrick Stockton LLP; Tom Clarkson, Wake Forest University Babcock Graduate School of Management; John Funkhouser, nContact Surgical, Inc.; and Rick Blume, Excel Medical Ventures, discussed the patentability of research and discoveries in regenerative medicine.

And Tim Bertram, Tengion; Alan Farney, M.D. Ph. D., Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center; Jason Conner, Life Sciences Law; and Ram Baliga, Wake Forest University Babcock Graduate School of Management, discussed utilization and commercialization of the research in regenerative medicine.