Paul Knoepfler

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Paul S. Knoepfler
Born (1967-04-10) April 10, 1967 (age 55)
NationalityUnited States of America
AwardsHoward Temin Award
Scientific career
FieldsStem cells, Cancer Biology, Epigenomics

Paul S. Knoepfler[1] (born April 10, 1967) is an American biologist, writer, and blogger. He is a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, the Genome Center, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. In 2013, Knoepfler was named one of the 50 most influential people in the stem cell field.[2]


Knoepfler received a BA in English Literature from Reed College in 1989 and a PhD in Molecular Pathology from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in 1998 as a Lucille P. Markey Fellow.[3]


Knoepfler's research is focused on enhancing the safety of stem cell treatments, including that of induced pluripotent stem cells,[4][5] and developing novel therapies to target cancers, particularly brain tumors.[6] His lab studies the Myc oncogene and other factors that regulate stem and cancer cell chromatin including histone variant H3.3.[7]

Knoepfler did his postdoctoral studies at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the laboratory of Bob Eisenman, studying Myc regulation of chromatin in stem cells and cancers of the nervous system.[8] During his postdoctoral studies, Knoepfler received a fellowship from the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research, and the Howard Temin Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).[9]

Knoepfler joined UC Davis in 2006 as an Assistant Professor, shortly after the formation of the California stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).[10] His decision to move was influenced at least in part by the promise of CIRM to vitalize stem cell research in California.[11] He received a $2 million New Faculty Award from CIRM in 2008.[12] More recently, he received the GPI national stem cell advocacy award in 2013.[13]

Knoepfler has also received support from the March of Dimes via the Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award[14] and from the National Brain Tumor Society.[15] Knoepfler was more recently awarded grants from the St. Baldrick's Foundation[16] to support work studying how Myc causes childhood brain cancers and potential ways to develop new treatments.[17][18]

Cancer, blogging, and advocacy[edit]

Knoepfler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2009 at age 42, an experience he credits at least in part as the inspiration to start blogging as an academic stem cell researcher.[19] As of 2012, Knoepfler was the only stem cell scientist in the United States who regularly blogged about stem cells.[20] Knoepfler remains in long-term remission from prostate cancer after surgery in 2009. In addition to blogging about stem cells, he blogged about his experience with prostate cancer,[21][22] a disease that is often not discussed openly by men.

Knoepfler received tenure in 2011 while actively blogging, an event he claims demonstrates a growing acceptance of social media in academia.[22] He is a proponent of scientific social media and has been listed as the top person to follow on Twitter to stay current on events in the stem cell field.[23] His blog at has broken a number of stem cell news stories, including the fraud of Hisashi Moriguchi of Japan, who claimed to have transplanted iPS cells into humans as early as 2012;[24] the unawarded third position for the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine;[25] and the explosion of stem cell cosmetics.[26] In addition to his blogging, in 2013 Knoepfler released a book titled Stem Cells: An Insider's Guide,[27] which is aimed at a general audience of both scientists and non-scientists.[28]

As part of education and advocacy efforts, Knoepfler has supplied his own funds to support advancing the stem cell cause. In 2012, he awarded multiple $50 iTunes gift cards as prizes for a stem cell essay contest[29] and started a Stem Cell Person of the Year Award that includes a $1,000 cash prize given from Knoepfler's own money. The first winner of this award was stem cell and spinal cord injury patient advocate, Roman Reed.[30][31]

In 2015, Knoepfler published a new book, titled GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies,[32] which discusses the science of human genetic modification. His second book covers the new CRISPR gene editing technology and its possible use in humans, cloning, eugenics, and transhumanism. Knoepfler advocates in the book for a temporary moratorium on clinical use of CRISPR in humans, whether for health condition or even human enhancement to create designer babies.[33] In a TEDx Vienna talk titled "What if my neighbor's kid was genetically modified?"[34] he addresses his concerns on the use of CRISPR in humans.

In December 2015, Knoepfler was interviewed on the PBS Nightly News hour along with Jennifer Doudna, by Gwen Ifil. In 2016, he was a panelist on Episode 12 of the TV show Bill Nye Saves the World to discuss CRISPR and designer babies. In 2017, he was the subject of a feature article in Science Magazine [35] for his advocacy and educational outreach work. [36]

In 2019 Knoepfler co-authored his new book with his daughter, Julie Knoepfler, How to Build a Dragon or Die Trying: A Satirical Look at Cutting-Edge Science,[37] which discusses using CRISPR gene editing, stem cells, and bioengineering to make real dragons.



  1. ^ "Paul Knoepfler, Ph.D. | UC Davis Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy".
  2. ^ "Top 50 most influential people on Stem Cells today" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Faculty Profile".
  4. ^ "Patient's own skin cells may treat diseases, UCD researcher says". Davis Enterprise.
  5. ^ Vergano, Dan (May 20, 2009). "Controversy doesn't derail stem cell progress". USA Today.
  6. ^ "St. Baldrick's Foundation awards $100,000 to UC Davis Scientist".
  7. ^ Bush, Kelly M.; Yuen, Benjamin TK; Barrilleaux, Bonnie L.; Riggs, John W.; o'Geen, Henriette; Cotterman, Rebecca F.; Knoepfler, Paul S. (2013). "Endogenous mammalian histone H3.3 exhibits chromatin-related functions during development". Epigenetics and Chromatin. 6 (1): 7. doi:10.1186/1756-8935-6-7. PMC 3635903. PMID 23570311.
  8. ^ "Myc in nervous-system development". 6 February 2003.
  9. ^ "Paul Knoepfler receives five-year Howard Temin Award from the NCI". 7 July 2005.
  10. ^ "Names of Stem Cell Researchers Moving to California Since Prop. 71". 18 August 2007.
  11. ^ "California's stem cell agency ponders its future". USA Today. March 19, 2012.
  12. ^ "UC Davis researcher gets $2M for stem cell research". Sacramento Business Journal.
  13. ^ "Stem Cell Scientist Who Blogs To Receive Award For Advocacy". Forbes.
  14. ^ "March of Dimes grant".
  15. ^ "BTS Grant Recipients". Archived from the original on 2013-05-20.
  16. ^ "St. Baldrick's Grants".
  17. ^ "$100,000 awarded to UC Davis stem cell researcher". Rocklin Today.
  18. ^ "Name Droppers". Davis Enterprise.
  19. ^ "My year as a stem-cell blogger". Nature News.
  20. ^ "Like Touching Tomorrow: a Visit to the World Stem Cell Summit". Daily Kos.
  21. ^ "My Cancer: how I became an advocate too". 18 January 2011.
  22. ^ a b "Alumnus Profile: Stem Cell Blogger".
  23. ^ "Social media and stem cells: Time to start tweeting".
  24. ^ "A not-so-Nobel story on cellular reprogramming". Nature News.
  25. ^ Bardin, Jon (October 8, 2012). "Was anyone snubbed in Monday's Nobel Prize announcement?". LA Times.
  26. ^ "In the Flesh: The Embedded Dangers of Untested Stem Cell Cosmetics". Scientific American.
  27. ^ "UC Davis stem cell researcher warns consumers to beware of unproven or dangerous stem cell treatments". Sacramento Bee.
  28. ^ "Stem Cells: An Insider's Guide – the new book by Paul Knoepfler". 30 September 2013.
  29. ^ "$50 iTunes gift card for best stem cell essay". San Diego Union Tribute.
  30. ^ "Stem cell person of year chosen". San Diego Union Tribune.
  31. ^ "Roman Reed Foundation".
  32. ^ Knoepfler, Paul (2015). GMO Sapiens. doi:10.1142/9542. ISBN 978-981-4667-00-5.
  33. ^ "Paul Knoepfler".
  34. ^ "The ethical dilemma of designer babies". Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  35. ^ "The rise of unproven stem cell therapies turned this obscure scientist into an industry watchdog". 2 August 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  36. ^ "2015's biggest breakthrough could deliver designer babies". 30 December 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  37. ^ Knoepfler, Paul; Knoepfler, Julie (2019). How to Build a Dragon or Die Trying. doi:10.1142/11104. ISBN 978-981-327-446-4.

External links[edit]