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Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado appointed the Priscilla Wood Neaves Endowed Chair in the Biomedical Sciences

Stowers President Emeritus William B. Neaves, PhD, offers commentary on the appointment of Alejandro Sánchez Alvarada as Priscilla Wood Neaves Endowed Chair in the Biomedical Sciences at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

31 March 2021

Priscilla Wood Neaves

As undergraduates in Boston more than half a century ago, Priscilla and I began to understand the significance of endowed chairs in scholarly endeavor.

Three decades later in Dallas, I had the privilege of holding an endowed chair, the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, established by a dear friend in memory of his parents.

Around the same time, Priscilla raised an endowed chair for Southern Methodist University to honor her mentor in the School of Theology named the William Joseph Ambrose Power Endowed Chair of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation.

When the Stowers Institute for Medical Research was established in Kansas City more than two decades ago, Priscilla expressed great enthusiasm for its mission as defined by Jim and Virginia Stowers–they wanted to give their grandchildren and all humanity better options for staying healthy and defeating disease. So, when Priscilla became terminally ill with neurodegenerative disease a decade ago, it seemed appropriate to memorialize her with an endowed chair in the Institute.

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, PhD

Only a decade ago, the Stowers Institute had the good fortune to recruit Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, PhD, a prominent Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the forefront of basic research revealing how regeneration of damaged body parts can occur. He is known particularly for his studies on regeneration and tissue homeostasis using the flatworm, Schmidtea mediterranea, as his research organism.

Here at the Stowers Institute, Alejandro achieved a major breakthrough that was published in the journal Cell just three years ago. He and his research team identified and isolated the pluripotent stem cells responsible for regenerative capacity in flatworms by the expression on their surface of a protein-coding gene, tetraspanin 1. They could save the life of a lethally-irradiated animal by transplanting into it a single tetraspanin-1-positive cell! I am delighted by the association of Priscilla’s memory with research of such significance in revealing the mechanisms of in vivo pluripotency and regeneration in animals.

William B. Neaves, PhD

Knowing that Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado is now formally the Priscilla Wood Neaves Endowed Chair in the Biomedical Sciences at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research gives me great satisfaction and is the most comforting event since Priscilla’s death nearly two years ago. Alejandro brings high honor to Priscilla's memory by holding the chair bearing her name and by linking his name with hers. I am absolutely delighted.

William B. Neaves, PhD
President Emeritus of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research

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