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Scientific Breakthroughs at Saint Peter’s Lead to the Vickers Challenge

Saint Peter’s College is home to significant scientific research under the direction of Leonard Sciorra, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Applied Science and Technology and Schuh Professor of Health and Natural Sciences. Over the past several years, Dr. Sciorra and a group of undergraduate students have developed a tissue culture procedure that yields numerous multi-potent cells capable of in vitro differentiation into cells with the morphologic appearance of nerve, adipose, hepatic and muscle tissue using human fibroblast cells taken from adults. For this promising innovation, Saint Peter’s College has filed for its first patent in College history.

Connected with this project, the College’s Pfizer PURE Science Program recently received funding from the Independent College Fund of New Jersey. This program is a research opportunity for four undergraduate students to investigate the field of non-embryonic stem cell research. Research with genetic materials at this complex stage is typically found in graduate level programs at research universities and professional laboratories. Each student researcher spends a minimum of 100 hours engaged in this research during the academic year or summer session. Preliminary work of the research team has also resulted in a private grant of $15,000 from the Catholic Human Services Foundation. Recent student researcher Luan To noted, “Getting the research position also encourages me, as a student, to pursue my future career in the science field.”

In addition to grant funding, support for Dr. Sciorra’s revolutionary work has come in the form of a challenge by Charles Vickers ’47. Motivated by the desire to raise awareness of this amazing technology and research, and excited by the potential of the project to change the world of medicine and improve people’s lives, Mr. Vickers will match all gifts pledged to the College’s Charles J. Vickers ’47 and Anne B. Vickers Tissue Culture Facility by June 20, 2011, up to $100,000. Dr. Sciorra commented, “I have been able to hire one of our recent graduates, Rezma Shrestha, as a full-time research technologist to help me with the work. The hiring of Rezma came directly from the Vickers Challenge funds.”

These experiments might be of significance in the field of regenerative medicine and in drug development to treat genetic diseases. Gifts to the Vickers Challenge can be made online. For more information, contact Claudia Pope-Bayne, director of annual giving, at (201)761-6111 or by e-mail at cpopebayne@spc.edu.