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Science Activities Update: Dr. David Schaffer

Posted on Thursday, February 29, 2024

ARCS was delighted to welcome Dr. David Schaffer as a speaker at our recent Science Activities gathering. We are in a revolutionary age of discovering how scientists might bioengineer the human body, and Dr. Schaffer is one of the top scientists in this endeavor. His UC Berkeley laboratory’s research employs molecular and cellular engineering approaches to investigate biomedical problems, with a particular focus in areas of gene therapy and stem cell biology and their application to therapies for diseases of the nervous system.

Schaffer studied bioengineering at Stanford and at MIT, and after a postdoctoral fellowship in the Salk lab he took a position as faculty member at UC Berkeley. In addition to starting eight companies, his current responsibilities include being Director of QB3 and the Berkeley Bakar Labs.

It was a fascinating evening with Dr. Schaffer, who was introduced by his colleague, Dr. Regis Kelly.  Professor Schaffer discussed the benefits in health care that we may now achieve with changing the DNA in our cells. The professor not only discussed his lab’s improvement of virus vectors which target the delivery of medicinal DNA to any cell type of the body but how they help the specific diseases he has targeted. These include retinitis pigmentosa, which would be cured for a patient’s lifetime avoiding the current need for frequent injections.
The other innovative approach to curing diseases is through stem cell therapy, whereby stem cells can replace a large population of faulty cells. Schaffer is using this technique in approaches to curing Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and even replacing heart muscle cells. 

ARCS members and guests lined up to ask Professor Schaffer their individual questions for at least 45 minutes after the conclusion of his talk.