Lorraine Iacovitti, Ph.D.
Director of Stem Cell Core, Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience

Dr. Iacovitti earned a PhD degree in Neurobiology and Behavior from Cornell University Medical College in New York City and did her postdoctoral work at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. In 1981, she joined the faculty of Cornell University Medical College and rose to the level of Associate Professor before moving in 1989 to her hometown of Philadelphia to the Neuroscience Institute at Hahnemann University. In early 1999, she joined the faculty of Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Lorraine Iacovitti is currently a full Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, Neurology and Neurological Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University and the new Jefferson Stem Cell and Regenerative Neuroscience Center in the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience. The Center greatly expands Jefferson’s ability to study neurodegenerative diseases using patient-derived stem cells and develop “personalized” pharmaceutical, genetic and cell-based treatments for these insidious diseases.

Dr. Iacovitti’s research contributions have been in the fields of developmental neuroscience and stem cell biology with an emphasis on Parkinson’s disease (PD) and stroke models. Her work in PD focuses on 1) defining the underlying principles governing the differentiation of the midbrain dopamine neuron, the cell lost in Parkinson’s disease (PD); 2) using differentiated stem cells for PD modeling and drug discovery in culture; and 3) translating these discoveries into a cell therapy to treat PD in vivo. Most recently, Dr. Iacovitti’s breakthrough discovery, published in Molecular Cell (2017), described ways to manipulate the cell’s DNA such that stem cells could homogenously differentiate into dopamine neurons, overcoming one of the major obstacles slowing the translation of iPS technology to the clinic. Through the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Neuroscience Center, Dr. Iacovitti is now building on this expertise to tackle other neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, SBMA and spinal cord injury. In the last decade, the Iacovitti lab has expanded its efforts to include studies on endogenous stem cells in the brain. With the discovery of novel stem cell niches along the entire neuraxis, these pioneering studies have re-written dogma, establishing for the first time the potential for widespread neurogenesis throughout the adult brain. Moreover, in all brain niches, a dramatic surge in stem cell proliferation and differentiation was observed after experimental stroke due in large part to molecular and cellular changes in the blood-brain-barrier. Capitalizing on this finding, the Iacovitti lab is currently exploring new ways to modify the BBB to facilitate entry of stem cells and other therapeutic agents.

Dr. Iacovitti has been continually funded by the NIH and NSF for more than 30 years. In addition, she was the recipient of the James A. Shannon Director’s Award from NIH, a Ben Franklin Partnership Award, a Kodak Research Award and an Amgen Research Award. In 2007, Dr. Iacovitti was honored with the Tilker Foundation’s inaugural Outstanding Investigator Award in Stem Cell Research and in 2010 she was nominated for the Royan International Stem Cell Scientist Award. She has served as a member of numerous NIH, NSF, Michael J Fox, Welcome Trust grant study sections and grant review panels. She is currently an Editor for the American Journal of Pathology and a Senior Editor for Brain Research. Dr. Iacovitti has served on the Board of Directors of The Parkinson Council (Chapter of National PD Foundation) since 2006.