John D. Gearhart (decd. 2020) was the James W. Effron University Professor, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Professor of Biological Sciences, with appointments in the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine from July 1, 2008 until his death in May 2020. Gearhart worked at the intersection of developmental biology, genetics and therapeutics.


Ever since 1998, when John Gearhart discovered how to isolate and propagate the world’s first human pluripotent stem cells capable of generating all cell types of the body,  he has made major contributions in applying that breakthrough to improve human and animal health. As founding Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Gearhart promotes research collaborations among faculty in a variety of disciplines across campus to develop cell replacement therapies for tissues lost to disease, injury or aging.
Gearhart, a developmental geneticist, studies how humans and animals are built when an embryo forms and develops to identify mechanisms that could be used for cellular repair and replacement. He publishes in Cell, Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences and Genomics, influencing translational research in nervous system, cardiovascular system and reproductive medicine.  Gearhart’s influence extends beyond his pioneering research through his outreach to the public and to policy makers to build awareness of the scientific and clinical applications in regenerative medicine.
Gearhart has promoted and enabled an award-winning educational program developed by Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty. This initiative to expand knowledge of regenerative biology and stem cell research has reached more than 18,000 K to 12th grade students in Philadelphia and 60,000 students nationally.  A course he developed for undergraduates, “Stem Cells, Science and Society,” offers non-science majors insights into the newest biomedical technologies and associated ethical issues.  Gearhart serves on the FDA’s advisory committee for cellular, tissue and gene therapies as well as on the Gene Doping Expert Group for the World Anti-Doping Agency. He is a founding member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. 
Currently, Gearhart is developing a new therapeutic strategy to rebuild organs and tissues from within by instructing other cell types in an organ to replace those that have been lost or damaged, thus restoring function. He is assessing the effectiveness of this approach for replacing neurons lost in Parkinson’s disease and for replacing cardiac muscle cells damaged or destroyed by a heart attack.
"In Memory - Pioneering scientist, tireless advocate for stem cell research," Institute for Regenerative Medicine - Penn Medicine, August 2020.
  • Genetics
  • Pluripotency
  • Stem Cells
  • Regenerative Medicine

"Pushing the Boundaries of Science to Advance Human Health," Wharton Business Radio, December 23, 2015 (with Jonathan Moreno)
"Symposium on Cellular Reprogramming to be Held at Penn Medicine," Penn Medicine, Press Release, April 8, 2014 
"Talking About Regeneration," Philadelphia Business Journal (pg 2), March 21, 2014
"John Gearhart, Stem Cell Pioneer, Named Penn's Institute for Regenerative Medicine Director and PIK Professor," Penn News, July 23, 2008
"Generating A Home for Regenerative Medicine," Penn Medicine, Spring 2009
"A Decade of Stem-Cell Research.  An Interview with John Gearhart," Embo Reports, December 2008
"Pondering the Ethics and Science of Stem Cells," Penn Gazetteer, 2002
"Stem Cell Pioneer," Penn Current, September 4, 2008
"John Gearhart, Stem Cell Pioneer, Named Penn's Institute for Regenerative Medicine Director and PIK Professor," Penn Medicine, Press Release, July 28, 2008


"Instructing Our Own Cells To Rebuild Our Bodies," Engaging Minds, University of Pennsylvania Speaker Series, 2010