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Sean J. Morrison is a Canadian-American stem cell biologist and cancer researcher. Morrison is the director of Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern,[1] a nonprofit research institute established in 2011 as a joint venture between Children’s Health System of Texas and UT Southwestern Medical Center. The CRI was established in 2011 by Morrison with the mission to perform transformative biomedical research at the interface of stem cell biology, cancer, and metabolism to better understand the biological basis of disease.[1] He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator [2][3] and member of the National Academy of Medicine.[4][5] From 2015 to 2016 Morrison served as the president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.[6][7]

Sean J. Morrison
Sean J. Morrison, PhD, Director of Children's Research Institute.jpg
Alma mater
Known forStem Cell Research
AwardsHoward Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, National Academy of Medicine
Scientific career
FieldsStem Cells, Cancer Biology

Morrison’s research group studies the mechanisms that regulate stem cell function in adult tissues and the ways in which cancer cells hijack those mechanisms to enable tumor formation.[8]

Education and awardsEdit

Morrison attend Dalhousie University and graduated with a BSc in biology and chemistry in 1991.[9] He earned his Ph.D. in immunology in 1996 for working on the isolation and characterization of blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells in the laboratory of Dr. Irving L. Weissman at Stanford University.[10] Morrison then worked as a postdoctoral fellow on the isolation and characterization of neural crest stem cells in Dr. David Anderson’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology from 1996 to 1999. From 1999 to 2011, he was a professor at the University of Michigan, where he founded their Center for Stem Cell Biology.[11]

Morrison was a Searle Scholar (2000-2003), and received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2003), the International Society for Hematology and Stem Cells McCulloch and Till Award (2007), the American Association of Anatomists Harland Mossman Award (2008), and a MERIT Award from the National Institute on Aging (2009). He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2018.[12]


Since its founding, Morrison and CRI researchers have developed an approach for mapping the environments within the blood-forming system that nurture the process of blood-cell formation, in the process identifying a microenvironment in the bone marrow where blood-forming stem cells are maintained, and another that fosters the specialized cells that produce infection-fighting T cells and B cells.[13][14] In the long run, the research could increase the safety and effectiveness of blood-forming stem cell transplants, such as those performed after healthy marrow is destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation treatments for childhood leukemia. The findings also could have implications for treating illnesses associated with a loss of infection-fighting cells, such as HIV and severe combined immunodeficiency, better known as bubble boy disease. CRI also has developed an innovative model for predicting the progression of skin cancer in patients, which may lead to new prognostic markers that can identify patients at the highest risk of disease progression, as well as new therapies.[15][16][17]

In addition to the findings at CRI, Morrison's laboratory has discovered a number of critical mechanisms that distinguish stem cell self-renewal from the proliferation of restricted progenitors. They have shown that stem cell self-renewal is regulated by networks of proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressors and that the balance between proto-oncogenic and tumor suppressor signals changes with age. This likely explains why the mutation spectrum changes with age in cancer patients, as different mechanisms become competent to hyper-activate self-renewal pathways in patients at different ages. His laboratory has further shown that in some cancers many tumor cells are capable of driving disease growth and progression while other cancers are driven by minority subpopulations of cancer cells that adopt stem cell characteristics. These insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of self-renewal have suggested new approaches for promoting normal tissue regeneration and cancer treatment.


Morrison has been active in shaping public policy related to stem cell research. He testified before the U.S. Congress,[18] served as a leader in the successful “Proposal 2” campaign to protect and regulate stem cell research in Michigan’s state constitution[19] ,[20][21] and chairs the public policy committee for the International Society for Stem Cell Research.


  1. ^ a b "Children's, UT Southwestern announce stem cell, cancer research institute". Dallas News. 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  2. ^ "Sean J. Morrison". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  3. ^ Toward Precision Medicine:: Building a Knowledge Network for Biomedical Research and a New Taxonomy of Disease. National Academies Press. 2011. p. 103. ISBN 9780309222228. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  4. ^ "CPRIT Scholar Morrison Elected to the National Academy of Medicine — Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  5. ^ "UTSW Researcher Sean Morrison Named to the National Academy of Medicine « D CEO Healthcare". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  6. ^ "Sean J. Morrison Assumes Leadership of the ISSCR Following the Annual Meeting, 24–27 June, Stockholm, Sweden". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  7. ^ Knoepfler, Paul (2015-08-31). "ISSCR President Sean Morrison on challenges and future of stem cell field". The Niche. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  8. ^ "ISSCR President Sean Morrison on challenges and future of stem cell field - The Niche". The Niche. 2015-08-31. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  9. ^ Lako, Majlinda; Daher, Susan (June 2009). "Balancing Work and Life: A Conversation with Sean Morrison". Stem Cells. 27 (6): 1229–1230. doi:10.1002/stem.113. PMID 19489093.
  10. ^ "Stanford Child Health Research Institute hosts inaugural symposium Nov. 16". News Center. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  11. ^ "Top stem cell researcher Sean Morrison leaving University of Michigan". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  12. ^ "National Academy of Medicine Elects 85 New Members". National Academy of Medicine. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  13. ^ Ding, Lei; Morrison, Sean J. (March 2013). "Haematopoietic stem cells and early lymphoid progenitors occupy distinct bone marrow niches". Nature. 495 (7440): 231–235. doi:10.1038/nature11885. ISSN 1476-4687. PMC 3600153. PMID 23434755.
  14. ^ Silverman, Lauren. "Cracking The Code To Create Special Blood-Forming Cells". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  15. ^ Baker, Sam. "New Model For Predicting Progression Of Skin Cancer". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  16. ^ Macey, Jennifer (2012-11-08). "Mice with human melanomas hold key to identify deadly tumours". ABC Radio. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  17. ^ "UT Southwestern Researchers Able to Mimic Human Melanoma Progression in Mice". D Healthcare Daily. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  18. ^ "University of Michigan scientist to testify on human embryonic stem cell research before Senate panel". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  19. ^ "Stem cell star Sean Morrison to Legislature: 'You don't compete by looking for ways to put stem cell biologists in jail'". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  20. ^ "Michigan Ballot Takes On Stem Cell Research". Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  21. ^ "The Politics of Stem Cell Research: The Michigan Initiative". iBiology. Retrieved 2019-04-08.

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