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Sanford Health selected for global cell-therapy event at Vatican

Organization recognized for innovative research, care

VATICAN CITY – Sanford Health’s work in cellular therapy and regenerative medicine is on the world stage this week. A group of researchers and leaders from Sanford Health were selected to participate in the “Third International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and Its Cultural Impact” and receive the 2016 Pontifical Key Innovation Award at the Vatican.

The conference has gathered the world’s leading scientists, physicians, ethicists, philanthropists, leaders of faith and government offices to discuss breakthroughs in cell therapy Thursday through Saturday in Vatican City, Rome.

The event is the continuation of a seven-year collaboration between The Stem For Life Foundation, a not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing global awareness of regenerative medicine and cell therapy, The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and its foundation, STOQ (Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest). This year’s focus is on “Cellular Horizons” and will explore the future and how science, technology, information and communication will allow for personalized medical solutions to remove inefficiencies, eliminate unnecessary care and improve clinical outcomes at an individual level.

Several Sanford Health researchers are sharing their expertise at the conference, while Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft and philanthropist Denny Sanford on Thursday accepted the Pontifical Key Innovation Award.

The Pontifical Key Innovation Award was presented by His Eminence Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Dr. Robin Smith, president of the Stem for Life Foundation. The award recognizes game-changing medical innovation exemplified by transformative thinking, creativity and ingenuity used to deliver the highest quality of medical care.

“We congratulate Denny Sanford and Kelby Krabbenhoft, and the entire team from Sanford Health, on receiving the 2016 Key Innovation Award,” said Cardinal Ravasi. “Sanford Health is uniquely devoted to improving the human condition through an exceptional commitment to research, education and community growth.”

“Consider this a culmination of more than a decade of work in research, recruitment and the development of infrastructure to support forward-thinking activities,” said Krabbenhoft. “It is indeed humbling to have my board recognized and invited to attend this conference, and it is critical to remember that Denny Sanford’s commitment to our vision has put us in the position to share the transformative research and care happening at Sanford Health.”

Smith said: “Whether cancer, rare genetic disease or diabetes, Sanford Health’s integrated model for research and drug development and clinical practice holds the promise of one day developing cellular cures for countless diseases, and we are thrilled to be able to recognize them globally for their accomplishments.”

The president of Sanford Research, David Pearce, Ph.D., is among the Sanford Health experts who were invited to present at the conference. He is covering Sanford Health’s work in rare-disease research and its effort to cure type 1 diabetes under The Sanford Project.

Jill Weimer, Ph.D., scientist and director of the Children’s Health Research Center at Sanford Research, is delivering updates on Batten disease. Sanford Research operates one of the few labs in the world focusing on Batten disease. Weimer and her team have developed an animal model and cell-therapy method to treat the condition.

Sanford Health’s third representative is Eckhard U. Alt, M.D., Ph.D., The Sanford Project’s Todd & Linda Broin Distinguished Professor and Chair. Alt is a world-renowned physician, researcher and inventor known for his work with adipose-derived stem cells.

A Sanford Health collaborator from its Sanford World Clinics location in Munich, Germany, was also chosen to share his work on the use of cell therapy in orthopedic procedures like reconstructive knee surgeries. Philip B. Schöttle, M.D., Ph.D., is chair of orthopedics and trauma surgery at ISAR Klinikum. Sanford World Clinics and ISAR Klinikum cooperate to provide regenerative medicine treatment options for patients from the United States.

“This conference is a powerful platform for leaders and researchers from across multiple organizations to collaborate on advancements in regenerative medicine,” said Pearce. “Being invited to attend and present at this conference places Sanford Health among the best and brightest searching for the next generation of treatments and cures.”

Sanford Health representatives were selected to present at the Vatican for their clinical work and research in cell therapy, immunotherapy and genomic medicine. The organization, which conducts research and provides care across its multi-state and international footprint, is involved in more than 300 clinical trials, many of which are studying regenerative methods. A recently launched trial, for instance, is using cell therapy to treat type 1 diabetes. Earlier this year, Sanford Health was announced as one of 10 founding partners in the Cancer MoonShot 2020 Pediatrics Consortium that is focusing on immunotherapy as the next generation of care for children with cancer.

Follow Sanford on Twitter (@sanfordhealth) and Facebook ( for updates throughout the conference.

Dr. PearceDr. WeimerDr. Alt

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. It is one of the largest health systems in the nation with 43 hospitals and nearly 250 clinics in nine states and four countries. Sanford Health’s 27,000 employees, including 1,400 physicians, make it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have allowed for several initiatives, including global children's clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. For more information, visit

About The Stem for Life Foundation

The Stem For Life Foundation (SFLF) is the educational and advocacy subsidiary of The Cura Foundation and is devoted to fostering global awareness of the potential for regenerative medicine to treat and cure a range of deadly diseases and debilitating medical conditions, as opposed to merely treating their symptoms. The Foundation stands at the forefront of a fundamental shift away from traditional drug treatment in favor of amplifying the body’s natural repair mechanisms to vanquish disease. For more information on The Stem For Life Foundation, please visit To follow the Vatican event on Twitter, please join the conversation @StemForLife or via the hashtag #UNITETOCURE

Tim Gerszewski

Sanford Media Strategist

605-366-2432 /


Linda Burns

Stem For Life/Allison+Partners

646-428-0606 /