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A map of Belgium with various cities noted.

The city of Leuven is about 18.5 miles east of Brussels, the capital of Belgium.

U partners with university in Belgium

From eNews, July 7, 2005

Two days after the University of Minnesota opened the doors to its Stem Cell Institute's new home, the McGuire Translational Research Facility, leaders from the University got together with their peers from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), to sign a ceremonial affiliation agreement. The agreement will allow for research and academic collaboration between the two institutions, including the exchange of faculty and students, as well as joint research projects and conferences.

"For researchers to realize the full promise of stem cells and this science, nothing is more important than the global relationship we are building," says Frank Cerra, the U's senior vice president for health sciences.

Earlier this year, the University announced that Catherine Verfaillie, Stem Cell Institute director, would be returning to her home country to lead the Stem Cell Institute in Leuven. Verfaillie will remain on the University of Minnesota faculty for the next two years as she works to build the connections between the two institutions. (The U will begin the search process to fill her position later this year.)

"I am excited to return to Belgium, but I am most excited by the potential to take our stem cell research efforts to a more global level," says Verfaillie. "Belgium has some of the more liberal regulations in the world with regard to stem cell research and the critical oversight necessary to protect the research and patients."

Stem cells: breaking it down

To learn more about stem cells and why the U wants to expand its research of them, read the SciFri 6.17.05 column "Stem cell research: from crosshairs to crossroads."

Also, U researchers have recently identified the genes that promote blood cell development. To read the story, see UMNnews

Leuven is the oldest Catholic university in Europe--established in 1425--and it's one of the biggest in northern Europe with 30,000 students. The university's stem cell transplant unit is one of the earliest developed and among the top five in Europe.

"We are excited to solidify our relationship with the University of Minnesota and Dr. Verfaillie will help us build that bridge," says Guy Mannaerts, vice-rector for biomedical sciences and chair of the University Hospital in Leuven. "The strengths of our two institutions are complementary and will provide an excellent foundation to attract the best young minds and spark their enthusiasm for this critical area of research."

The U's Stem Cell Institute, established in 1999, has more than 500 people in 17 schools and centers at the University participating in stem cell research. It is the world's first interdisciplinary institute dedicated to uncovering the potential of stem cells to improve human and animal health.

For information about the U's Stem Cell Institute, see To learn more about the new Translational Research Facility, read "McGuire Translational Research Facility."

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