USC Stem Cell welcomes new leader, renowned physician-scientist Chuck Murry

Charles (Chuck) Murry (Photo by Gavin Sisk/ University of Washington)
Charles (Chuck) Murry (Photo by Gavin Sisk/ University of Washington)

Charles (Chuck) Murry, MD, PhD, has been appointed as the next head of USC Stem Cell. In that capacity, he will be the chair of the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The recruitment concludes a national search. Murry will begin his USC appointment on August 1, 2024.

Currently cofounder and director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Murry is a pathologist and stem cell researcher specializing in heart disease who has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health as a principal investigator since 1996. He has drawn accolades for his work in translational science, which bridges the gap between fundamental studies and medical practice.

“Stem cell science comprises a major component of our plan to expand research impact in the coming years, and Dr. Murry is a perfect fit to help realize an interdisciplinary vision for igniting discovery,” said Carolyn C. Meltzer, MD, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “His deep expertise and focus as a physician-scientist drives breakthroughs in the laboratory toward addressing real-world health challenges. This dual-emphasis on furthering the science of stem cell biology and translating discovery to the clinic is ideally aligned with our overarching goal of accelerating research to optimize human health.”

Murry noted several advantages that position USC Stem Cell to make a substantial difference in patient care.

“I’m excited to join a leadership team at the Keck School that is brimming with energy and ambition,” he said. “The USC Stem Cell faculty are talented and accomplished in the basic science of regeneration. When you add the state-of-the-art infrastructure at the Broad Center and the partnership of generous supporters, our community at USC is poised to bring our science into the service of society, and to benefit countless patients, in a way that few other institutions in the world can.”

World-renowned leader to build on strong scientific base, accelerate breakthroughs from lab to clinic

Murry takes over as chair of the Keck School’s Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine for Gage Crump, PhD, a professor in the department who acted as interim chair for the past year. The outgoing director of USC’s stem cell research center is developmental biologist Andrew (Andy) McMahon, PhD, who led USC Stem Cell for 11 years and is returning to the faculty to put greater focus on his research into kidney disease. He is Provost and University Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Biological Sciences and Quantitative and Computational Biology.

With a reputation for a culture of intellectual exploration and collaboration, USC Stem Cell encompasses about 30 departmental faculty and more than 100 affiliated investigators and clinicians across USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Competitive research funding has grown in recent years, with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and other grantors supporting a number of programs launched through seed funding from internal initiatives and donor gifts. Educational opportunities include a doctoral program, a variety of postdoctoral and clinical fellowships, an undergraduate minor and a first-of-its-kind master’s program with 350 graduates through its upcoming 10-year anniversary.

“Andy McMahon’s leadership has been transformative,” said Meltzer, holder of the May S. and John H. Hooval, M.D., Dean’s Chair and professor of radiology in the Keck School. “He has helped both USC Stem Cell and the field at large take leaps forward. I am delighted that Andy will be staying on as a part-time entrepreneur in residence to continue to foster innovation and cross-institutional partnerships.”

Murry echoed the dean’s praise for his predecessor and highlighted the opportunities for collaboration and clinical impact he sees ahead.

“Andy McMahon has built a remarkable scientific organization,” he said. “Because I have the good fortune of inheriting a program in such strong shape, it gives me the luxury to hit the ground running and move forward with new initiatives.

“The future of USC Stem Cell is as a program grounded in basic science but striving to develop treatments for today’s patients,” he continued. “That means reaching out to develop connections — across the Keck School of Medicine; with colleagues elsewhere at USC, especially engineers and basic scientists; and around the greater L.A. Basin, with outstanding institutions such as Caltech, UCLA, Cedars-Sinai, City of Hope and UC Irvine.”

Chuck Murry, harnessing stem cells to regenerate the human heart

Murry, a professor with tenure of laboratory medicine and pathology, bioengineering and medicine/cardiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, completes 28 years on the faculty there. In his research, he uncovers the molecular mechanisms behind heart attack, and harnesses stem cells and tissue engineering with the goal of regenerating the human heart and reversing heart failure. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed biomedical studies. His experience in translating scientific results into therapeutic technologies includes his role as a senior vice president at Sana Biotechnology between 2019 and 2022.

A board-certified anatomic pathologist specializing in diagnosing illnesses of the cardiovascular system, Murry maintains clinical interests in areas such as coronary artery disease, heart transplantation and heart failure. He has been recognized by the University of Washington School of Medicine for his entrepreneurial abilities and, several times, for excellence as an educator. With a track record as a prolific mentor, he counts more than 100 postdoctoral scholars, graduate students and undergraduates among his proteges.

He has been elected a fellow of both the American Academy for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. The American Heart Association has recognized Murry with its Golden Heart Award. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and serves on the International Society for Stem Cell Research’s board of directors.

He earned a BS in chemistry from the University of North Dakota and both his PhD and MD degrees from Duke University. Before Murry joined the faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine, he trained there as a pathology resident, a pathology fellow and a postdoctoral researcher.

Mentioned in this article: Andrew P. McMahon, PhD, FRS