Jim Till

Jim Till’s role in the history of stem cell science is pivotal. He and his partner Ernest McCulloch were the first researchers to prove the existence of stem cells in the 1960s in Toronto, Canada. Their discovery altered the course of medical and biological research over the next 45 years. Currently, Jim is a passionate advocate for Open Access (OA), hoping to make published research more accessible and eliminate cost-restrictive barriers that would slow down science.

Stem Cell Pioneer

Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch didn’t exactly go looking for stem cells, but stumbled upon them in their search to understand the effects of radiation in a new atomic age.

Their discovery happened in 1961 in Toronto, Canada while injecting bone marrow into mice. They observed small raised lumps growing on the spleens of the mice and speculated that each lump arose from a single marrow cell: perhaps a stem cell. With this new knowledge, their research provided a scientific explanation for why bone marrow transplantations work.

The team went largely without public recognition until 2005 when they were both awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, often known as “America’s Nobel.” At that time, the Lasker Foundation made the importance of Till and McCulloch’s contribution indisputable: “Their work laid the foundation for all current work on adult and embryonic stem cells and transformed the study of blood-cell specialization from a field of observational science to a quantitative experimental discipline.”