Sánchez Alvarado named Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer for the Stowers Institute

January 1, 2021
Press Release

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado

KANSAS CITY, MOThe Stowers Institute for Medical Research is pleased to announce that Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, PhD, Investigator and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, has been named the Institute’s new Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer.

In Sánchez Alvarado’s new role, he will undertake responsibilities to carry the Stowers Institute into the future, with a quest to cultivate and spur groundbreaking and innovative research.

His role reaffirms the Institute's mission: to make a significant contribution to humanity through medical research by expanding an understanding of the secrets of life, and by improving life’s quality through innovative approaches to the causes, treatment, and prevention of diseases.

“Places like the Stowers Institute are rare,” Sánchez Alvarado said. “Finding intellectual ecosystems in which the practice of science can be carried out rigorously and with minimal distractions is difficult. Therefore, helping to preserve, cultivate and grow such ecosystems becomes more important with every passing day.”

Sánchez Alvarado continued, “Our Institute is such an ecosystem. Thus, it is uniquely positioned to become a fountainhead of biomedical research innovation, whether fashionable or not. It is a place where fundamental problems of biology can be systematically and rigorously dissected, and a place where scientists can follow ideas of great substance. I envision a future in which our interrogation of nature will not only continue to unveil new biology, but will also result in the discovery of altogether new principles of biology.”

“With a passion for scientific exploration, Dr. Sánchez Alvarado’s new role is an exciting step forward for the Institute,” said Richard W. Brown, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Institute and Stowers Resource Management. “Under Dr. Sánchez Alvarado’s guidance, we continue our dedication to generating knowledge by doing world-changing science for tomorrow.”

Sánchez Alvarado is internationally recognized for his work on animal regeneration. Besides the important practical ramifications of improving human health, the study of regeneration also provides fertile and largely unexplored grounds to obtain a greater understanding of the fundamental molecular and cellular activities governing biological function.

Not satisfied with the available research organisms, Sánchez Alvarado searched broadly for a species that may help shed light on the molecular and cellular basis of regeneration, a problem in biology that has defied explanation for many centuries.

Sánchez Alvarado, together with his past trainee, Phil Newmark, PhD, embarked on an effort to exploit key biological attributes of a unique strain of the planaria Schmidtea mediterranea. Amazingly, they collected it in an abandoned fountain in Spain.

Subsequently Sánchez Alvarado, along with many laboratory trainees, established this free-living aquatic flatworm with significant regenerative powers as a modern research organism. The planarian core facility at the Institute now furnishes planaria to researchers and educators across the globe.

Prior to joining the Institute, from 2002 to 2011 Sánchez Alvarado was a faculty member in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, where he held the H.A. and Edna Benning Presidential Endowed Chair. In 2005, he was named an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Sánchez Alvarado joined the Stowers Institute in 2011.

Sánchez Alvarado’s distinguished and continuing achievements in original research have been recognized by his election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Academia de Ciencias de América Latina. He has served as President of the Society for Developmental Biology. He is an elected member of the Councils of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society for Cell Biology. Sánchez Alvarado is also a fellow of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

“Our Institute is a gift from Jim and Virginia Stowers to our city, our state, our country, and the world,” said Sánchez Alvarado. “A gift of undying optimism in the power of the human mind to understand the most perplexing and seemingly unfathomable mysteries of life. A gift that rewards us with the opportunity to be the very best and carry out the very best science we possibly can. I am honored to be in a role that allows me to contribute to a thoughtful and deliberate effort to expand our understanding of life.”

About the Stowers Institute for Medical Research

The Stowers Institute for Medical Research is a non-profit, basic biomedical research organization dedicated to improving human health by studying the fundamental processes of life. Jim Stowers, founder of American Century Investments, and his wife, Virginia, opened the Institute in 2000. Currently, the Institute is home to about 500 researchers and support personnel, 20 independent research programs, and more than a dozen technology centers. Learn more about the Institute at www.stowers.org and about its graduate program at www.stowers.org/gradschool