Stem Cell Network Awards Three Fellowships Alongside Charity Partners, JDRF Canada, MS Canada and Heart & Stroke

October 23, 2023 (Ottawa/Toronto) – Canada’s Stem Cell Network (SCN) is pleased to announce three new Fellows who have been awarded postdoctoral fellowships to pursue stem cell and regenerative medicine research in type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, respectively. The announcement was made today in Toronto at the annual Till & McCulloch Meetings, Canada’s premier stem cell and regenerative medicine conference, alongside SCN’s fellowship partners JDRF Canada, MS Canada, and Heart & Stroke.

Congratulations to the 2023 Fellows:

Dr. Sing-Young Chen, Recipient of the 2023 J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes, supported by SCN and JDRF Canada

Dr. Chen’s research is focused on investigating sex differences in insulin producing beta cell responses to stresses associated with type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D is more common in males than females, and female beta cells are less susceptible to stress-related cell death and can survive to keep making insulin. Understanding and leveraging these differences will support the development of new T1D therapies that will thrive in a T1D environment. Dr. Chen’s yearlong fellowship is valued at $60,000 and will take place at the JDRF Centre of Excellence, located at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Dr. Elisabet Jakova, Recipient of the SCN-MS Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship in Regenerative Medicine for Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Jakova’s research will explore the potential of the protein Neuregulin-1 to promote repair of the myelin sheath enveloping human nerves. The myelin sheath – which is a protective layer that keeps our nerves functioning, sending, and receiving messages from all parts of our body – is damaged by the immune system in multiple sclerosis, leading to impaired mobility, sensation, cognition, vision, and other essential bodily functions. Dr. Jakova’s research aims to evaluate Neuregulin-1 as a potential future treatment to halt MS progression and facilitate tissue repair, offering hope to those affected by this debilitating disease. Dr. Jakova has been awarded $50,000 per year to complete the two-year fellowship at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Yimu Zhao, Recipient of the SCN-Heart & Stroke Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women’s Heart and/or Brain Health

Dr. Zhao’s research focuses on the creation of a “heart on a chip” model to evaluate the potential of mitochondrial transplantation as a treatment for heart attacks. Mitochondria, often called the powerhouses of our cells, play a crucial role by generating energy essential for cell function. In the context of heart attacks, damaged mitochondria can contribute to tissue injury. Dr. Zhao’s goal is to use this innovative approach to restore function and repair injured tissue following a heart attack. This promising work has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of cardiac regeneration and improve the lives of those affected by heart disease. Dr. Zhao has been awarded $60,000 per year to complete the two-year fellowship at the University Health Network in Toronto, Ontario.


“We are honoured to have partners like JDRF Canada, MS Canada, and Heart & Stroke, who share our commitment to a healthier future – one that is powered by regenerative medicine research. Together, and through these fellowships, not only are we supporting next-generation talent, but we are also working avidly to advance therapies and treatments for type 1 diabetes, women’s heart and brain health, and multiple sclerosis – diseases that affect hundreds of thousands of Canadians. A very big congratulations to Drs. Chen, Jakova, and Zhao on your Fellowship awards. We look forward to the outcomes of your research.”

– Cate Murray, President & CEO, Stem Cell Network

“Andrew McKee was an impactful leader for JDRF and was a significant driving force behind the kind of T1D research that this Fellowship supports. We are so pleased to continue our partnership with SCN to provide new opportunities for trainees at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC, which alongside its exciting research goals has an outstanding multidisciplinary training program. Dr. Chen’s work will help us better understand the mechanisms behind beta cells which will help move us ever closer to cures for type 1 diabetes.”

– Jessica Diniz, President and Co-CEO, JDRF Canada

“We are proud to partner with the Stem Cell Network to invest in the next generation of scientists and their foundational research through the Postdoctoral Fellowship program. Dr. Jakova’s research developing regenerative therapies for progressive MS holds promise towards our collective commitment to halt and ultimately reverse disease progression. Work in this area provides hope in the ability to delay disability and even repair lost function, which is life-changing for people living with progressive MS.”

Pamela Valentine, President and CEO, MS Canada

“I am thrilled with the announcement of Dr. Yimu Zhao as the recipient of the SCN-Heart & Stroke Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women’s Heart and/or Brain Health. Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada and Dr. Zhao’s research into heart restoration and repair post-heart attack represents a promising future in cardiac care.”

– Doug Roth, CEO, Heart & Stroke

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About the Stem Cell Network: The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is a Canadian not-for-profit that supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research; training the next generation of highly qualified personnel; and knowledge mobilization and transfer of stem cell and regenerative medicine research. From the lab to the clinic, SCN’s goal is to power life-saving therapies and technologies through regenerative medicine research for the benefit of all. Created in 2001, with support from the Government of Canada, the Network has grown from a few dozen labs to more than 270 world-class research groups, supporting over 250 research projects and 30 clinical trials. Since its inception, over 25 biotech companies have been catalyzed or enhanced and more than 6,400 highly qualified personnel have been trained. In 2021, the Government of Canada demonstrated its continuing trust and support in SCN with an investment of $45 million for the 2022–2025 period.

About JDRF: JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our goal is to raise funds to support the most advanced international T1D research and progressively remove the impact of this disease from people’s lives – until we achieve a world without it. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.ca.

About MS Canada: MS Canada fosters meaningful connections both within the MS community, and between the MS community and research, programs, resources, and services. As of 2023, MS Canada amalgamates two previously known entities, the MS Society of Canada and the MS Scientific Research Foundation, continuing its work toward the same vision of a world free of multiple sclerosis. The MS community is at the centre of MS Canada. For 75 years we have been relentless in our fight, continuously funding research to expand the current MS knowledge base. We also advocate for people living with MS, asking the government to remove barriers and improve policies that impact their everyday lives. For more information visit mscanada.ca.

About Heart & Stroke: Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke has been leading the fight to beat heart disease and stroke for 70 years. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so Canadians don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy. Heartandstroke.ca @HeartandStroke


Media Contact:
Samantha Rae Ayoub
Vice President, Communications & Knowledge Mobilization
Stem Cell Network