Principal investigators

Principal Investigators and main Contributors

Elena Cattaneo, (female) PhD in Biotechnology Applied to Pharmacology,  is director of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Pharmacology of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the Department of Biosciences, co-founder and director of UniStem, the University of Milan’s Centre for Stem Cell Research ( The laboratory has been studying Huntington’s disease – a rare genetic and neurodegenerative disease,for more than 20 years with the goal to contribute to the understanding of the pathological mechanisms of this disease and to develop pharmacological, genetic and cellular strategies that could slow down the course of the illness or prevent its onset. She has been coordinator of three EU funded consortia on regenerative medicine for neurodegenerative conditions: NeuroStemCell (2008-13), NeurostemcellRepair (2013-17) and is currenly coordinator of this new EU consortium NSC-Reconstruct
Malin Parmar (female) is Professor of Cellular neuroscience, works with translational stem cell biology. The focus of her research is to understand cell fate specification in the developing brain and in human neural progenitor cells using cell-based models of neuronal differentiation. The group current focus is to learn how to direct and efficiently drive controlled differentiation of human stem cells into specific neurons. The ultimate aim is to develop these cells and technologies for use in brain repair, with focus on Parkinson’s disease.
Tomas Björklund (male)  – Associate Professor in Neurobiology, PI of Molecular Neuromodulation that focus on the development and application of disruptive technologies for in vivo gene editing (CRISPR/Cas9 and other technologies) and connectivity mapping as well as on the development of next-generation gene based therapies for Parkinson’s disease and related disorders.
Anders Björklund (male), MD and PhD at Lund University, is senior professor of histology at the Wallenberg Neuroscience Center in Lund. He was president of the European Neuroscience Association 1996–1998 and served as chairman of the Neuroscience Panel at the European Research Council in Brussels in 2007–2010. He was elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1989, and foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, in 2011. His main research interests are in studies of brain regeneration and repair, with a focus on cell replacement and gene therapy in neurodegenerative diseases. In the 1970s, his team pioneered the development of methods for cell transplantation to the brain, and over the following decades, Björklund’s team at Lund University has pioneered the use of cell transplantation in Parkinson’s disease and has played an active role in the exploration of stem cells as a source of cells to be used for this purpose. He participate as internal advisor to the project.
Oliver Brüstle (male) - Head of the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology is Professor of Reconstructive Neurobiology at the University of Bonn. He is also Co-Founder and Scientific Director of LIFE & BRAIN GmbH, a biomedical enterprise serving as translational hub of the University of Bonn Medical Center. Trained as an M.D., Oliver Brüstle conducted research and clinical work in neuropathology and neurosurgery at the universities of Zurich and Erlangen, respectively. In 1993 he moved to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, MD, USA to study neural stem cells. Upon his return to Germany in 1997, he started is own lab and, in 2002, became director of the newly founded Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology. His field of interest is stem cell research with a particular focus stem cell-based disease modeling and nervous system repair. In 2013, Brüstle was elected founding president of the German Stem Cell Network. He also serves as Chair of the Managing Board of the Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westphalia. Brüstle is a member of EMBO and Senator of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.
Ernest Arenas (male), is Professor of Stem Cell neurobiology at MBB, KI, since 2002. He obtained his MD in 1986 and his PhD in 1991 for which he received a Cum lade and a Thesis award by the Univ. of Barcelona. He was postdoctoral EMBO fellow at KI (1991-1993), where he became Assistant Prof. in 1994, Associate Prof. in 1997 and was Tenured in 1998. In 2001 obtained a Researcher position from the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences and the INGVAR Award by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. He became Chairman of the MBB department in 2010-2015. Since 2010 he is Elected Member of the Nobel Assembly in Medicine or Physiology; and since 2016, he is Co-director of the Strategic research area in stem cells and regenerative medicine at KI.
Annalisa Buffo, (female), PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology at the Department of Neuroscience, group leader and deputy director at the Neuroscience Institute Cavalieri Ottolenghi, Orbassano, Torino ( Her research focusses on the role of glia and progenitor cells in brain plasticity and repair, and on the implementation of cell replacement approaches in conjunction with training protocols to promote functional recovery in CNS diseases. Annalisa Buffo is strongly involved in knowledge transfer and science communication: she is co-founder and CEO of the spin off S&P BRAIN (, offering preclinical proof of concept studies in neuroscience, she is responsible of public engagement activities for UNITO-DNS, and coordinator for UNITO of UniStem Day, the largest stem cell dissemination event in Europe.
Roger Barker (male) is Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and Consultant Neurologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital Cambridge, PI in the MRC-Wellcome Trust Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge and Director of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform in pluripotent and engineered cells. He trained in Oxford and St Thomas’ Hospital in London and after completing his general medical training undertook a PhD at Cambridge on neural grafting before completing his neurology training. For the last 25 years he has run research that seeks to better define the clinical heterogeneity of two common neurodegenerative disorders of the CNS- namely Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD)- and the neurobiological basis of this. This has helped him define the best way by which to take new therapies into the clinic including drug repurposing, gene and cell based trials for patients with these conditions.
Agnete Kirkeby (female) is Associate Professor and started her own group studying human neural development at the Danish Stem Cell Center (DanStem) at the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCPH, after obaining her PhD from UPCH and Sloan Kettering Institute  (2009) and conducting research in Parmar's lab at Lund University (2009-15). Her lab aims to apply advanced human stem cells models to understand how the hundreds of human neural subtypes of cells are formed during embryo development. This knowledge will enable us with new tools to produce and study human nerve cells in the lab, and to use these for disease modelling, drug screening and transplantation therapies towards brain diseases.
Meng Li (female) has a long standing interest in neural specification and pioneered the concept of genetic based lineage marking and selection of neural stem cells. Her research group has made significant contribution in uncovering the composition and the basic principles of gene regulation during pluripotent stem cell differentiation and developed novel methods that direct efficient differentiation of stem cells to defined neuronal cell types in order to develop cell-replacement therapies as well as for building novel human models for studying neurological diseases..
Magdalena Götz is a developmental neurobiologist by training with ample expertise in brain injury and direct reprogramming. Her research has been mainly focused on the understanding of factors that mediate neurogenesis both in the developing and adult brain to employ these for direct reprogramming of the glial cells whose role she studies after brain injury in order to target the best suitable set of glial cells for conversion into neurons. She has received many prestigious awards like the Leibniz Prize, Schering Prize, Roger de Spoelberch Award and is an advanced ERC grant holder. She also has a grant within the Eranet programm and several priority programs of the German Research Foundation. She is also a board member of the Systems Neurology Cluster that is funded by the German Excellence Cluster.
Pierre Vanderhaeghen (male) is a Full Professor at the faculty of medicine at the KU Leuven and group leader at the VIB. His group (, the laboratory of stem cell and developmental neurobiology,  focuses on the mechanisms of cortical development in link with human brain evolution and diseases. He pioneered the use of pluripotent stem cell (PSC)-based technology to model and study the development of the cerebral cortex (Gaspard Nature 2008; Vanderhaeghen Patent Gaspard Nature Protocols 2009; Espuny-Camacho Neuron 2013). He then demonstrated that mouse or human ESC-derived cortical neurons could efficiently integrate into the adult mouse brain following a cortical lesion (Michelsen Neuron 2015 ; Espuny-Camacho Cell Reports 2018), thus providing a first important proof of principle in the prospect of brain repair. 
Dr. rer. nat. Michael Peitz (male) is currently serving as interim Head of Commercial Development at LIFE & BRAIN Cellomics. Dr. Peitz has scientific expertise in the biology of pluripotent stem cells, their neural differentiation and genetic engineering. He is responsible for the production of stem cell-based products for disease modelling and drug screening, as well as for the development of novel stem cell culture automation technologies. 
Nicolaj Strøyer Christophersen, Director of the Stem Cell Discovery Department, and Carlos Villaescusa, Project Leader, are both working at the Stem Cell Unit at Novo Nordisk. They have extensive experience in academic scientific research in the areas of human pluripotent stem cells and Parkinson’s disease, previously at Lund University (NSC) and Karolinska Institutet (CV) in Sweden and now in the industrial sector at Novo Nordisk in Denmark. They have co-supervised Postdocs, PhD students, and Master students, and these supervision activities are continuing nowadays at the Stem Cell Unit, where they contribute to the development of cell replacement therapies for the treatment of serious chronic diseases across a range of disease areas. 
Andreas Bosio (male) was trained in chemistry, biochemistry and neurobiology. He is Head of the Department of Molecular Technology & stem Cell Therapy in Miltenyi Biotec ‘s R&D department (600 scientists, technicians and engineers). His department is divided in six groups dedicated to research and development in the field of stem cells, neuroscience and cancer towards new therapeutics for regenerative medicine and cancer treatment as well as technological development in the field of microscopy, cell manufacturing and sample preparation.