2021 Honorees include Joseph P. Vacanti, MD, NFL Alumni Health, the Klein Family (Bob, Danielle and Rob),  Feng Zhang, PhD and the Global Immunization Action Network Team (GIANT)

Winston Salem, NC – June 2, 2021 – On June 18, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT,  Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF) will broadcast the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards as part of  the virtual 16th annual World Stem Cell Summit (WSCS) and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and RMF’s  Regenerative Medicine Essentials Course, taking place June 14-18, 2021. 

Bernard Siegel, Executive Director of Regenerative Medicine Foundation and founder of the World Stem Cell Summit, said, “Through the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards, outstanding individuals and organizations are recognized for their devotion to improving health and developing cures through advocacy, innovation, leadership, education and inspiration. This year’s distinguished honorees are truly an inspiration who have made remarkable contributions to the field. Notable achievements made even more impressive, under the cloud of the global pandemic.”

Featuring Special Guests

Anthony Atala, MD
Sabrina Cohen
Brooke Ellison

Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Lauren Miller Rogen & Seth Rogen
Frances Saldaña

Beasly Reece
Susan Solomon
Stemmy the Stem Cell

Meet the 2021 Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Action Award Honorees:

NFL Alumni Health

Advocacy Award: NFL Alumni Health

Founded in 1967 by a small group of successful retired NFL players, NFL Alumni Association (NFL Alumni) is one of the oldest and well-respected retired player organizations in professional sports. More than 15,000 former NFL players are connected with NFL Alumni. In 2020, NFL Alumni launched NFL Alumni Health to expand its efforts to improve the health and wellness of NFL Alumni members, as well as the general community, through informational resources, programs, and services, in line with its mission which includes “Caring for Kids,” “Caring for our Own,” and “Caring for the Community.” NFL Alumni Health activities include its collaboration with CDC to raise awareness of the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.  NFL Alumni Health has also launched a program to educate its membership—and the public—about the potential benefits of regenerative medicine and cell-based therapies, and the questions patients should be asking as they seek out safe, effective and approved treatments. The very future of contact sports in America might depend upon the long-term treatment of our heroes of the gridiron and NFL Alumni Health leads the way.

Robert Klein
Danielle Guttman Klein
Robert N. Klein III

Leadership & Advocacy Award: Bob Klein, Danielle Klein, Rob Klein

A new multi-billion dollar California ballot initiative to fund stem cell research for better treatments and cures for chronic diseases and illnesses was on the ballot in 2020. All the pundits said it couldn’t be done; it just wasn’t the time. Against all odds, and during a world altering pandemic, Proposition 14 not only qualified for the November ballot; but, it was passed, authorizing $5.5 billion in new funding for the continued operation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The California agency’s research funding had already led to over 90 clinical trials, and 3,000 peer reviewed published discoveries. However, its funding had been exhausted, leaving highly promising research without the support needed to make it through vital stages of basic research, therapy development, and clinical trials, so that this research will fulfill its principal purpose of benefiting the patients that so desperately need the therapies that will result.

The entire Klein family provided essential leadership. Bob, Danielle and Rob Klein are a family of patient advocates who have made it their mission to ensure funding for stem cell and genetic therapy research remains a priority. Bob and Danielle served as Co-Chairs, and Rob served as the President of the campaign. Prop 14 would have never passed without their tenacity and devotion to the cause. They credit the initiative’s passage, in large part, to endorsement from over 100 patient advocacy groups, and a dedicated campaign team fighting for better treatments and cures for their families and loved ones. California, and indeed the world, will be the beneficiaries of longer, healthier lives due to the stem cell and regenerative medicine research and therapies that will be enabled by the passage of Prop 14.

Feng Zhang, PhD

Pathfinder Award: Feng Zhang, PhD 

Feng Zhang is a molecular biologist who has developed novel molecular technologies for studying the brain. He pioneered the development of CRISPR-cas9 as a genome editing tool and has substantially expanded the use of new CRISPR tools, including RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas13 systems and CRISPR-associated transposon systems, which can be used for gene insertion. One day, CRISPR might be harnessed to treat and possibly cure debilitating medical conditions such as Sickle Cell Anemia, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington’s Disease, HIV and cancers. Zhang is currently a core institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, as well as an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, and a professor at MIT, with joint appointments in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering. Zhang is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

James Valvano, founder of Huntington’s Disease advocacy organization WeHaveAFace.org said, “We know firsthand how it is to live with this horrific disease and witness our family members gain their HD Warrior Wings. Dr. Zhang’s tireless efforts in harnessing the technologies within the CRISPR toolbox is remarkable, and truly sets the stage for future life saving treatments. As patients and caregivers of an international organization, WeHaveAFace.org will continue to support stem cell and gene editing methodologies. Patients and families around the world have been waiting for a non-pharmacological approach that would make imperative changes for all disease-oriented groups. We have faith and hope that patients will be saved from the devil of all diseases. We are so blessed to have pathfinding researchers like Dr. Zhang in the trenches with the Huntington’s disease community.”

The Global Immunization Action Network Team (GIANT)

Education Award: Global Immunization Action Network Team (GIANT)

The Global Immunization Action Network Team (GIANT) works to improve global public health outcomes by combating vaccine hesitancy through effective, sensitive, science-based communication and education. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, their extraordinary team has provided important, credible and factual information for people and communities to embrace immunization with trust and confidence. Without health literacy, public health will fail. GIANT presents a novel and timely topic to the World Stem Cell Summit agenda, Health Literacy: Stem Cell Science, Vaccine Development & Confidence in the Age of the Covid Pandemic and Infodemic. GIANT’s educational efforts are extending beyond just vaccinations. According to William Remak, senior advisor and coordinator at GIANT, “As stakeholders in the public health crusade to curb suffering, we could not stand by and let the difficulties and inhumanities continue without at least making an effort and taking steps to address the pandemic.”

Joseph P. Vacanti, MD

Lifetime Achievement Award: Joseph P. Vacanti, MD

Dr. Joseph Vacanti is Surgeon-in-Chief and Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Mass General Hospital for Children. He is also Director of the Pediatric Transplant Program and co-director of the MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine. He has been active in clinical innovation and research in the field of regenerative medicine for more than three decades. Dr. Vacanti continues to study the creation of artificial organs using a biodegradable polymer scaffold to develop and shape tissue. He has authored more than 275 reports, more than 65 book chapters, and holds more than 80 patents or patents-pending in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan for his work in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. He received the John Scott Medal, awarded by the City of Philadelphia, and more recently, the prestigious Flance-Karl Award, presented by the American Surgical Association. As well, he began the nation’s first liver transplantation program specifically for the pediatric population. Dr. Vacanti was a founding co-president of the Tissue Engineering Society, now named the Tissue Engineering Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS). RMF recognizes his lifetime of dedication and genius.

Past Honorees

2020 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2020 honorees)
  • Innovation Award: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • Inspiration Award: Emily Whitehead Foundation
  • Advocacy Award: Gift of Life Marrow Registry
  • Leadership Award: Ret. Major General Benard “Bern” Loeffke, PhD


2019 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2019 honorees)
  • Inspiration Award: Doug Oliver, MSW
  • International Advocacy Award: Desirée Cox, MD, PhD
  • International Diplomacy Award: Robin L Smith, MD MBA
  • International Achievement Award: Lu Daopei Medical Group
  • Leadership Award: The International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory


2018 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2018 honorees)

  • Advocacy Award: Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden
  • Leadership Award: Dr. W. E. “Ed” Bosarge
  • Leadership Award: Norio Nakatsuji
  • Advocacy Award: Shelley Ross and the Cure Alliance
  • Advocacy Award:Adrienne Bell-Cors Shapiro

2016 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2016 honorees)

  • Leadership Award: Bernie Marcus
  • Leadership Award: Don Soffer
  • Advocacy Award: Camillo Ricordi, M.D
  • Inspiration Award: Sandy Barker and The Gold Rush Cure Foundation

2015 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2015 honorees)

  • Leadership Award: Robert M. Nerem, PhD
  • Education Award: Ann Murphy, PhD
  • Advocacy Award: Tory Williams & the Alabama Institute of Medicine
  • Advocacy Award: Jeanne Loring, PhD
  • Inspiration Award: CURE Cerebral palsy (CB)

2014 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards

(Click here to read about 2014 honorees)

  • Leadership Award: Henry Cisneros
  • Hero Award: William R. Brinkley
  • International Leadership: Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine (JSRM)
  • Education Award: Texans for Stem Cell Research
  • Advocacy Award: Mostyn Foundation
  • Inspiration Award: Huntington’s Disease (HD) Advocacy Community

2013 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2013 honorees)

  • Leadership Award: Denny Sanford
  • Leadership Award: Malin Burnham
  • National Advocacy Award: Dr. Paul Knoepfler
  • Education Award: Mary Ann Liebert
  • Inspiration Award: Roman Reed

2012 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards

(Click here to read about 2012 honorees)

  • Leadership Award: Susan Solomon
  • Media Integrity Award:60 Minutes
  • National Advocacy Award: Alliance for Regenerative Medicine
  • Public Outreach & Education Award: Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures
  • Inspiration Award: Sabrina Cohen


2011 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2011 honorees)

  • Leadership Award: Sherry Lansing
  • National Advocacy Award: Research!America
  • Education Award: Let’s Talk Science
  • Public Advocacy Award: University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute
  • Inspiration Award: Grant Albrecht


2010 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards
(Click here to read about 2010 honorees)

  • National Leadership Award: Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm
  • National Advocacy Award: A. Alfred Taubman
  • Education Award: Canadian Stem Cell Network
  • Grassroots Advocacy Award: Stephen Byer, Barbara Byer and ALS WORLDWIDE
  • Inspiration Award: Laura Jackson

2009 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards

  • National Leadership Award: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley
  • International Advocacy Award: The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF)
  • Education Award: Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures (MCSCRC)
  • Grassroots Advocacy Award: Cure Michigan
  • Inspiration Award: Margaret Conn
  • Inspiration Award: John L. Kellermann, III

2008 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards

  • National Leadership Award:Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle
  • National Advocacy Award: Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
  • Education Award: National Association of Biology Teachers
  • Inspiration Award: Brooke Ellison
  • Grassroots Advocacy: Ben Kaplan


  • Michael J. Fox
  • Parkinson’s Action Network
  • Dr. Ralph Dittman
  • Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures


  • Bob Klein
  • Hadassah
  • Don Reed
  • Student Society for Stem Cell Research
  • Luca Coscioni Association


  • Danny Heumann
  • Coalition for Advancement of Medical Research
  • Texans for Advancement of Medical Research