Stem cell guru walks out on Spanish science

A world leader in stem cell research is leaving the cutting-edge center he helped create in Barcelona due to a lack of support from the authorities in both Catalonia and Spain.

Juan Carlos Izpisa, a Spanish biochemist who teaches at the Salk Institute in California and has earned numerous awards for his research into organ and tissue development, had helped found the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Center (CMRB) in 2004, bringing Spain to the forefront of stem cell research.

But now Izpisa is resigning from his director's post due to a lack of financial and political support from his two major public sponsors, the government of Spain and the regional government of Catalonia.

Sources in the scientific community are blaming the move on "the cuts, political mediocrity and a lack of empathy from Madrid." They also note that Catalan premier Artur Mas met with Izpisa 18 months ago and assured him that he would put all available means at his disposal.

Sources in the scientific community are blaming the move on "the cuts, political mediocrity and a lack of empathy from Madrid"

According to sources familiar with the months-long negotiations, the decision to let Izpisa go originated in the Catalan government, although Madrid did nothing to stop it. The explanation supplied was that, as an undesirable effect of cutbacks, the government was no longer in a condition to keep funding the center "at the quality levels required" by its director.

While his departure will not bring about the immediate closure of the center, the CMRB will lose many of its lines of research, since 18 of the 21 scientific projects it is currently carrying out are the intellectual property of Izpisa, who will take them with him.

The move also underscores how the crisis has meant further cuts for scientific projects in Spain, which is seeing many researchers move abroad to find jobs and financial support.

Shortly after the crisis hit Spain in 2008, the then-Socialist government announced a shift away from construction as the basis of the countrys economic growth. But so far this has failed to translate into any significant investment in other fields.

Over the last decade, the CMRB has published more than 200 papers, including some seminal work in the emerging field of regenerative medicine. One of Izpisa's projects, the development of "micro-kidneys" from stem cells, was described by Science magazine as one of the great advances of 2013.

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Stem cell guru walks out on Spanish science

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