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From the bottom up: CP Rail’s Keith Creel steps out from Hunter Harrison’s shadow to cement his own legacy

Keith Creel was just a relatively raw kid from Alabama when Hunter Harrison summoned him to the 21st floor of the NBC Tower in Chicago for a meeting in 1996. It’s a day vividly imprinted on his memory 26 years later, because days like that were not…



Keith Creel, chief executive of Canadian Pacific Railway.

Keith Creel was just a relatively raw kid from Alabama when Hunter Harrison summoned him to the 21st floor of the NBC Tower in Chicago for a meeting in 1996. It’s a day vividly imprinted on his memory 26 years later, because days like that were not supposed to happen to people like him.

Harrison, a brash southerner, with a rich baritone voice, a taste for Marlboro Red cigarettes and stiff drinks, and a reputation as a master storyteller, was chief executive of Illinois Central Railroad and already a legend in railroad circles.

Creel was a nobody. A new frontline hire, soon bound for Memphis, Tenn., and a job as trainmaster. He couldn’t really fathom why the boss would want to meet him. His nerves were hopping all over the place as he walked into an office anteroom with bookshelves and a couch, comfy chairs and a million-dollar view of Lake Michigan. He found himself thinking, “Somebody must live here.”

Around a corner sat Harrison. He told the kid to “sit down,” and he started telling stories of growing up in the South, of sports and railroading.

“I spent three hours with Hunter,” Creel, now 52 years old, said. “And I heard a lot and I learned a lot, and I realized then that this wasn’t just a CEO in a suit, and no disrespect to CEOs in suits, but this was a guy who understood the business from top to bottom.”

Harrison also recognized, for whatever reason, something in Creel, and would pull him along from railroad to railroad, dispatching him to towns along the way to sort out operational kinks and learn the business just as he had: from the bottom up.

 Hunter Harrison in 2015.

Until, that is, the protege appeared at the top, and succeeded Harrison as chief executive at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. in January 2017. Harrison died later that same year, but were he alive today, Creel could tell him a story of his own, about that kid from Alabama being the driving force behind CP’s US$25.2-billion deal to purchase Kansas City Southern.

The merger is a whopper in an industry where whoppers rarely happen, and it positions a Canadian railway, one started in 1881 that now connects the country from coast to coast, to drive a stake into an expansive network stretching from northern Alberta deep into the Mexican industrial heartland.

Regulators will have their say, no doubt, but most everybody else — the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Alberta’s premier, Kansas City Southern’s board, analysts and the stock market, where CP is trading at record highs — are cheering the purchase.

Should it ultimately go through, Creel’s name, as Harrison’s typically is, may never again appear without the word “legend” practically affixed to it.

“This has been a transaction that has been talked about for the last 15 years.” Steve Hansen, an analyst at Raymond James Ltd., said of the deal. “It is massive.”

Chances are, though, it never would have happened were it not for another guy named Steve, who worked at Food World in Atlanta in the early 1980s. That Steve, whose last name has been lost to time, worked alongside Creel, a high school sophomore, wrestler and impressionable teen with car payments to make.

Steve had been to U.S. Army boot camp. He had a brush cut. He could talk.

“What he told me inspired me,” Creel said.

No one in Creel’s family had a military background. (No one in his family worked for the railroad, either). But he heard enough to enrol in an officer’s training program while pursuing a marketing degree at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.

Midway through university, Creel was called up for active duty during the Persian Gulf War, and the wet-behind-the-ears 21-year-old lieutenant got his first taste of leading others while stationed in Saudi Arabia.

The army was about teamwork, order, logistics, troubleshooting problems, following rules and believing in a mission greater than oneself. It was also about motivating people to do their best.

“I learned that I had a huge love for leadership in the military,” Creel said. “When I came back, the military opportunity was what led to the railroad.”

And the railroad led to that first meeting with Hunter Harrison in Chicago. Before Harrison came along, railroads were notoriously unreliable. Major delays were the industry norm. Punctuality was but a rumour.

Harrison set out to fix things, evolving his philosophy of “precision scheduled railroading” along the way. In short: his trains were going to leave on time and they were going to arrive on time. Locomotives would pull more cars to maximize loads and boost profits. Reducing transit times between point A and point B was paramount. Providing fast and reliable service would attract more customers, and more customers would mean more profitable railroads. A culture of slow and inefficient would become a culture of quick.

 Keith Creel, left, and Hunter Harrison at a CP Rail annual meeting in 2016.

“PSR is basically doing what you say you are going to do for your customers,” Hansen said. “If you say you are going to leave at 2 p.m., then you leave at 2 p.m., where, historically, it was always, ‘Let’s just wait a little bit longer before we leave.’”

Canadian National Railway Co. bought Illinois Central in 1998, and brought in Harrison as its chief operating officer, later promoting him to CEO. Now running a Canadian railroad, he would send Creel to Winnipeg, in -40 C weather, among other stops, to implement his precision-guided philosophy.

“Keith and Hunter were a lot alike in that they were both extremely focused,” said Andy Reardon, former chair of CP’s board and a 40-year industry veteran. “They strove for perfection.”

Reardon first met Harrison in the 1970s. He describes Creel as having a softer touch, and an uncanny talent for soaking up the best parts of the best people he has ever worked for and applying them to his own leadership style. As another person phrased it: no one finds Keith Creel “intimidating.”

Creel likens Harrison to a coach, or a father figure, someone who could be tough but caring, someone you hated to disappoint.

“When you needed it, Hunter would knock you down in the dirt,” he said from his home in Florida. “But he would also stick out his hand and dust you off, and tell you to go get them again.”

The question for Creel always seemed to be: go where? In learning the business from the bottom up, he uprooted his family 13 times in 14 years to live in places such as Battle Creek, Mich., Wichita Falls, Texas, and Edmonton.

“I became a fix-it guy,” he said. “Hunter put me in some very challenging locations and terminals. I would parachute in, stay for a year, get things turned around and going the right way, and then he would have another project to send me to.”

Living out of a suitcase wasn’t easy. Harrison may have been the boss, but Creel’s most “trusted adviser” was his wife, Ginger. Somewhere along the way, the former high school wrestler also became that most Canadian of things: a hockey parent.

Creel’s son, Tanner, was a goaltender at the University of Connecticut, while their daughter, Caitlin, competed in equestrian at Auburn University in Alabama.

“Often, I was by myself,” Creel said of watching Tanner’s games from the stands. “I sort of internalize, because that was the only healthy way to do it, or maybe it wasn’t healthy. But the stress of (watching Tanner) was more than the stress of work.”

Harrison retired from CN at the end of 2009, but came out of retirement to run CP in 2012. A year later, he poached Creel from CN under cantankerous circumstances to sign on as president and chief operating officer.

As close as the two men were, they didn’t agree on everything. The CP beaver is a case in point.

 The Last Spike, 1895.

Canadians may recall a black-and-white photograph of a small man with a white beard driving home the last spike of CP’s railway in November 1885. For a young country just finding its way, post-Confederation, the railway proved transformational. Goods and people could get around, as could a budding narrative of a nation, from sea to shining sea, united by a feat of engineering know-how.

The small man with the beard in the “Last Spike” photograph was a financier, political arm twister and philanthropist named Donald Alexander Smith, a Scotsman. More than a century later, it was an Alabaman, Creel, who twigged onto the idea that there was an opportunity to rebrand the company by reconnecting it to its roots.

CP first adopted the industrious beaver as a logo when it began running transcontinental trains out of Montreal and Toronto in 1886. The critter was tossed onto the metaphorical tracks in 1968, revived for a spell in the late 1990s, and then sidelined again. Harrison had no use for the beaver. The past was the past.

But Creel brought it back almost immediately after taking over as CEO, incorporating it into a snazzy new company logo — albeit one with a retro feel — and painting it in gold on CP trains. He even helped sketch out the logo.

“I literally sat at my desk in Calgary with a colleague and started scratching out some thoughts,” he said. “And I said, ‘This is it, we will just combine the past and the present, and it will carry us into the future.’”

The logo overhaul was a small touch, a clever bit of marketing from a guy with a marketing degree. To customers and the world outside, it was a nod to the past, sure, but it also pointed directly at the future.

 A Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive painted with the company logo at a rail yard in Calgary.

Here was a fresh look for a new CP: a railway that leaves and arrives on time, gets goods to where they need to go, has a strong safety record and happy shareholders, and one that was still looking to grow.

But Creel hoped an internal shift in tone, even more than the external messaging, would resonate with employees. The Harrison era at CP, with Creel as chief lieutenant, was a painful exercise in righting a business that had a weak bottom line and was teetering toward potential bankruptcy and break-up.

Hundreds of locomotives were parked, railyards were closed and about 8,000 jobs were chopped from the payroll during Harrison’s five years at the helm.

“PSR is a cultural, financial and operational principle, and it can be wrenching for some people, particularly for those accustomed to doing things one way, and who don’t want to change,” former chair Reardon said.

Harrison may have invented PSR, but Creel, in his role as implementer-in-chief, perfected it. Travel times between Toronto and Calgary were reduced by 22.5 hours. Another 12 hours was cut from the Calgary-to-Vancouver leg. The culture of fast won out, though not without friction.

In February 2015, 3,000 conductors and engineers walked off the job, protesting poor working conditions such as extreme fatigue and unreliable schedules. Harrison’s response to the two-day strike was to keep the trains running by putting white-collar executives on the rails.

“I can tell you that when a train comes running by at 60 miles per hour, pulling 20,000 tonnes with the manager blowing the whistle at them, their eyes get awful big,” Harrison reportedly said of the striking workers.

 A CP Rail train passes as dozens of employees wear signs and walk the edge of the Ogden rail yard as they strike in Calgary, on February 15, 2015.

By the time Creel officially took over, the mandate was growth, not more cuts, and the logo refresh was, in part, his way of extending an “olive branch” to employees. He describes the company’s 13,000 employees as “family.” It probably doesn’t hurt that the family generates about $8 billion a year in revenue.

The kinder approach has mostly paid off. A source among the CP rank and file, who requested anonymity, said there are some guys who “come to work with a smile on their face,” while others are “constantly looking over their shoulders, and feel as though they are being watched.”

Things are not perfect, Creel allowed, but no family is. What is beyond dispute is CP’s and Creel’s reputation for getting the job done.

“CP are unmatched, they are the gold standard,” Hansen, the analyst, said.

Now, it is poised to get a whole lot bigger.

But the merger with KCS was another thing that Creel and Harrison could never quite agree upon. Harrison disliked the idea; Creel had long been intrigued by it.

The younger man visited his mentor several times as he lay dying in a Florida hospital. Harrison was on oxygen, vulnerable — human — and it was tough to see. But two days before he died, he was back to being Hunter Harrison: lucid, funny and eager to tell stories with his protégé.

They thanked one another for “doing right” by one another. Harrison held forth, just like in the old days, coaching Creel on whom he could trust and who he couldn’t. They talked for three hours.

Creel knows just what Harrison would say, if he could see him now.

“He would be proud,” he said. “He would be extremely proud. I know that he would.”

Financial Post

• Email: | Twitter: oconnorwrites

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This course asks, ‘What is mindfulness?’ – but don’t expect a clear-cut answer

Mindfulness is everywhere in pop culture today, but that doesn’t mean people agree on what it means.




Practicing mindfulness doesn't have to mean being removed from the world. PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Text saying: Uncommon Courses, from The Conversation

Uncommon Courses is an occasional series from The Conversation U.S. highlighting unconventional approaches to teaching.

Title of course:

“What is Mindfulness?”

What prompted the idea for the course?

As a professor of religion and ethics, particularly Asian traditions, I had already been interested in teaching a course about mindfulness. Its popularity seems to be surging: I see “Mindful” on magazine racks, and almost everyone I’ve met at my university has used the word at some point.

But oftentimes people say to be “mindful” when they mean “pay attention” or “don’t forget”: being “mindful” of a slippery road, say, or telling students to be “mindful of the deadline.” I started wondering what other people meant each time they used the word. This made me realize my course shouldn’t be a lecture about mindfulness, but an opportunity to explore what it is in the first place.

What does the course explore?

The course explores the origins of mindfulness in yoga and Buddhism. Mindful meditation – being attentive to one’s body, feelings and thoughts – is part of one of the Buddha’s central teachings, the Noble Eightfold Path, and considered key to enlightenment.

But we explore the many meanings of “mindfulness” that have emerged in recent decades, too. American professor Jon Kabat-Zinn is credited with popularizing the kind of mindfulness that has caught on with non-Buddhists today, starting with his “mindfulness-based stress reduction” program in the 1970s.

Some people are upset that mindfulness has become too mainstream and fear that it has lost its intended meaning. Buddhism scholar Ronald Purser’s book “McMindfulness,” for example, argues that capitalist societies have embraced mindfulness as a way to put the burden of mental health back on the individual rather than address root problems.

Students in my class read a variety of these perspectives and discuss themes such as mindfulness and mental health, mindful eating and breathing, environmental mindfulness and even meditation apps. In the end, I want each student to decide for themselves what mindfulness is.

A woman in exercise clothes does a yoga pose inside a dark cathedral with stained glass windows.
Mia Michelson-Bartlett, yoga teacher and manager of visitors’ services, practices yoga and mindfulness meditation inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Why is this course relevant now?

I first proposed this course right before the arrival of COVID-19, so when it launched for the first time, we met remotely over Zoom. I was tempted to drop the class after we went remote, but I quickly realized that it might help students who were wrestling with mental health issues at the beginning of the pandemic.

Each student kept a journal of our topics every week to practice mindfulness and to explore some of the therapeutic techniques. First, I asked them to find examples of the word in their everyday experiences – used on a poster at the student rec center, for example.

Later, I asked them to practice breathing and visualization techniques from the influential Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, such as asking yourself every hour “What am I doing?” and reflecting on your mind, emotions and posture.

What’s a critical lesson from the course?

Buddhism changes dramatically depending on “whose” Buddhism you are talking about. The dalai lama’s form of Tibetan Buddhism, for example, is not the same as the Zen Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh.

A row of monks stand next to a small crowd of schoolchildren in uniform as one monk takes a child's hand.
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh reaches for a student’s hand during a meditation walk on a ‘day of mindfulness’ in Hong Kong in 2007. Steve Cray/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

It’s the same with mindfulness. Thirteenth-century Zen master Dōgen taught pupils to seek mindfulness in seated meditation. Five hundred years later, on the other hand, Zen master Hakuin taught mindfulness in the midst of activity – practicing it not just on the meditation pillow, but amid the hustle and bustle of the streets.

All forms of Buddhism, though, focus on transforming suffering into lovingkindness. So teaching this course has persuaded me that if the way you teach mindfulness helps someone, it doesn’t matter if it’s “real” Buddhist mindfulness or not. If pop culture’s version of the concept relieves someone’s suffering, then I don’t want to be a gatekeeper and say, “This is not real mindfulness.”

What will the course prepare students to do?

All of the students in this course are first-semester freshmen. The class began as a way to get them to think critically about what mindfulness is but also offers tools to deal with the stress of college life.

Muscles grow after they heal and rest. The same is true when it comes to learning. Our minds need to take time to breathe, reflect on new information and absorb it.

I also hope students will understand that taking care of oneself can be an act of care for others. Just as on an airplane we are told to put on our own oxygen mask before helping the person next to us, we all need to take care of our own mental health in order to help those around us.

Kevin C. Taylor does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Post-bariatric surgery exercise modulates brain regions associated with regulation of food intake

Physical exercise practiced by patients submitted to bariatric surgery acts on brain regions involved in food intake, reducing hunger or accelerating satiety,…



Physical exercise practiced by patients submitted to bariatric surgery acts on brain regions involved in food intake, reducing hunger or accelerating satiety, for example. This was the result observed in a clinical trial conducted at Hospital das Clínicas (HC), the hospital complex run by the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil. An article on the study, pointing to positive effects of exercise on obesity-related conditions in post-bariatric patients, is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Credit: Carlos Merege Filho

Physical exercise practiced by patients submitted to bariatric surgery acts on brain regions involved in food intake, reducing hunger or accelerating satiety, for example. This was the result observed in a clinical trial conducted at Hospital das Clínicas (HC), the hospital complex run by the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil. An article on the study, pointing to positive effects of exercise on obesity-related conditions in post-bariatric patients, is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study showed that an exercise training program starting three months after bariatric surgery produced functional alterations in brain networks associated with food intake and modified by obesity. The findings confirm the hypothesis that exercise and bariatric surgery act synergistically on the connectivity among brain regions associated with cognition, reward and emotional regulation, potentially moderating hunger and enhancing satiety.

According to the article, exercise increased the connectivity between the hypothalamus (the brain region that controls homeostasis, including regulation of appetite and energy expenditure) and the brain’s sensory areas. At the same time, it apparently decreased the link between the default mode network, which is more active during a resting state, and the salience network, the brain region involved in decision-making.

The researchers also found that exercise after bariatric surgery appeared to modulate the medial hypothalamic nucleus involved in appetite suppression and increased energy expenditure.

“The regulation of energy expenditure is governed by multiple internal and external signals. People with obesity display major dysregulation of brain regions associated with appetite and satiety. Our study showed that exercise by post-bariatric patients helped ‘normalize’ these complex networks so as to improve the central control of food intake. For example, some of these regions are activated and connect more intensely in people with obesity when they eat fatty or sugary food, increasing their desire to consume such food. We found that exercise counteracts this effect, at least in part,” Bruno Gualano, last author of the article, told Agência FAPESP. Gualano is a professor at FM-USP.

The study was supported by FAPESP via a research grant for the project “Effects of exercise training in patients undergoing bariatric surgery: a randomized clinical trial” and was part of the PhD research of Carlos Merege Filho, first author of the article, with a scholarship from FAPESP. The co-authors included Hamilton RoschelMarco Aurélio SantoSônia BruckiClaudia da Costa LeiteMaria Concepción García Otaduy and Mariana Nucci (all of whom are affiliated with HC-FM-USP); and John Kirwan of Pennington Biomedical Center (USA).

Considered one of the world’s main public health problems, obesity is a chronic disease characterized by excessive body fat accumulation and a major risk factor for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as severe COVID-19. The parameter used for diagnosis in adults is body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms divided by height squared in meters. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates overweight, while 30 or more signals obesity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Brazil has one of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world. According to projections, almost 30% of the adult population will be obese in 2030. A billion people, or 17.5% of the world’s adult population, will be obese by then, according to the World Obesity Atlas 2022 published by the World Obesity Federation.


From the clinical standpoint, Gualano believes, the findings suggest that exercise should be considered an important complementary therapy to improve brain functions and enhance the known benefits of bariatric surgery, such as a reduction in cardiometabolic risk factors, as well as preservation of muscle mass and bone health.

He and his group have been conducting research in this field since 2018, as evidenced by other publications, one of which showed that exercise attenuated and reversed loss of muscle mass, improving muscle strength and function in post-bariatric patients. Genotypic and phenotypic analysis evidenced metabolic and structural remodeling of skeletal muscle.

In another study, exercise reduced risk factors for diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), by increasing sensitivity to insulin, combating inflammation and improving the health of blood vessels.


The randomized clinical trial reported in the International Journal of Obesity involved 30 women aged between 18 and 60 who had been submitted at HC-FM-USP’s bariatric surgery unit to a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which creates a small stomach pouch to restrict food intake and bypasses a large portion of the small intestine to limit calorie absorption. A majority of patients admitted to the unit are women. 

Half the study sample were randomly assigned to a six-month exercise program of resistance and aerobic training three times a week, starting three months after the operation and supervised by a team of physical education professionals.

Clinical, laboratory and brain functional connectivity parameters were assessed at the start of the trial, as a baseline, and again three and nine months after the operation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to detect connectivity between anatomically distinct brain areas organized as networks, and to analyze the combined effects of the surgical procedure and exercise training. Data collection began in June 2018 and ended in August 2021.

“The literature has already shown that post-bariatric patients have many brain alterations compatible with improved control of appetite, satiety and hunger in neural circuits that govern food intake. Our study found that exercise training bolstered this response,” Gualano said, noting the importance of lifestyle changes to maintain the benefits of weight loss for people with obesity.

Bariatric surgery can currently be performed on patients with a BMI of between 30 and 35 and type 2 diabetes that has not been controlled for more than two years, and patients with a BMI over 35 who have other diseases associated with overweight, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea or hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease). For people with comorbidities, the recommended BMI is over 40.

In the past five years, 311,850 bariatric surgeries have been performed in Brazil; 14.1% were paid for by the SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde), the national health service. The rest were covered by insurance policies or paid for privately, according to the Brazilian Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Society (SBCBM).

“Regular exercise is known to induce several physiological adaptations that translate into health benefits. These benefits are reversed if the patient stops exercising regularly. Our study didn’t measure the duration of the brain changes induced by exercise, however. They’re highly likely to diminish and possibly even go into reverse as the amount and intensity of exercise decrease. It’s crucial to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order for the responses to bariatric surgery to be long-lasting,” Gualano said.

Next steps for the research group will include studying the effects in people with obesity of exercise and diet combined with other weight loss strategies, including new drugs such as peptide analogs or incretin mimetics, a class of medications commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. Incretins are gut hormones that aid digestion and blood sugar control by signaling to the brain to stop eating after a meal.

In early January, the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) approved semaglutide as an anti-obesity drug for long-term weight management. The drug had previously been approved only for patients with type 2 diabetes. It is the first injectable anti-obesity medication available in Brazil and is supposed to be administered once a week. It is said to enhance satiety, modulate appetite and control blood sugar. 

About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at and visit FAPESP news agency at to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at

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The CeMM & Angelini Ventures Healthy Lifespan Expansion Initiative

CeMM and Angelini Ventures are joining forces to support CeMM Principal Investigators Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro in critical lifespan expansion…



CeMM and Angelini Ventures are joining forces to support CeMM Principal Investigators Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro in critical lifespan expansion initiatives leveraging a novel academic/entrepreneurial dual-track program. De Rooij and Rendeiro, in collaboration with their teams, will lead an original research program on healthy lifespan expansion.  In parallel, they will collaborate on venture creation based on scientific and business insights developed by their work. Venture creation and related business development activities will take place along with scientific research.  The expectation is that this double-track initiative will allow for virtuous feedback cycles, propelling innovation through scientific research and bold venture creation goals.

Credit: CeMM

CeMM and Angelini Ventures are joining forces to support CeMM Principal Investigators Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro in critical lifespan expansion initiatives leveraging a novel academic/entrepreneurial dual-track program. De Rooij and Rendeiro, in collaboration with their teams, will lead an original research program on healthy lifespan expansion.  In parallel, they will collaborate on venture creation based on scientific and business insights developed by their work. Venture creation and related business development activities will take place along with scientific research.  The expectation is that this double-track initiative will allow for virtuous feedback cycles, propelling innovation through scientific research and bold venture creation goals.

(Vienna, 22 March 2023) Some societal challenges are of such importance to assume the central stage in the public discourse on sustainability and the future of humanity. Such a challenge is aging. Aging is a multidimensional phenomenon, occurring at the individual and population levels of society and on the molecular, cellular, and organ level of the human body. The urgency of dealing with the consequences of aging is illustrated by the fact that in just over ten years from now, more than a third of the population of Italy, one of the world’s most rapidly aging countries, will be over 65 years of age. Expanding the lifespan in which individuals enjoy a healthy status, in which they can be independent and productive, is critical for economic, social, and cultural reasons.

The fundamental mechanisms of aging, at the molecular, cellular, and tissue level, are still unclear and most single theories fail to explain the phenomenon. Scientific leaders are increasingly interested in combining cutting-edge research with immediate value creation and effective societal impact. Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro will be supported by a network of mentors and experts. At CeMM, the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the team will benefit from access to faculty peers, the center’s scientific leadership, a scientific advisory board, and the biotech ventures built in CeMM’s ecosystem of spinoffs. Through Angelini Ventures, the team will be supported to ideate and develop viable start-up companies emerging from their work and have access to an international network of investors, healthcare experts, and industry innovators.


“The Angelini Ventures team is delighted to partner with CeMM to collaborate on accelerating lifespan expansion research and venture creation. We believe this type of collaboration is the connective tissue between innovation and entrepreneurship. By combining our venture creation capabilities with the breakthrough research from CEMM, we can accelerate the pace of healthcare transformation,” says Paolo Di Giorgio, Chief Executive Officer of Angelini Ventures.

“CeMM is proud to pioneer a new training, research, and innovation method meant to foster a novel generation of professionals familiar with both the research and business worlds. In addition to expecting commercial success, the desired outcome is to create leaders able to inspire a new generation of scientists. Our goal is for the dual track of scientific research and business development to expand beyond the CeMM-Angelini network,” says CeMM Scientific Director Giulio Superti-Furga.


About the Principal Investigators

Laura de Rooij joined CeMM as principal investigator in September 2022. Her lab focuses on deciphering the transcriptomic landscape and role of circulating endothelial cells in health and aging. Laura de Rooij studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She then joined the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton (Canada), where she studied the role of RNA binding proteins in leukemic stem cells via an in vivo two-step CRISPR-Cas9-mediated screening approach. For her post-doctoral studies, she returned to Europe to work under the mentorship of Prof. Carmeliet in the lab of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism at VIB-KU Leuven (Belgium). Here she led and contributed to numerous single-cell transcriptome atlases of endothelial cells, generated from a diverse range of tissues, preclinical models, and clinical patient material in health and disease. Her studies have shed new light on the degree of vessel subtype heterogeneity in different tissues, as well as the altered composition and rewired molecular circuitries of endothelial cell subtypes in disease. Moreover, her efforts led to the discovery of previously unknown vascular subtypes and functions, including endothelial cells with a lipid-processing phenotype and potential prognostic relevance in breast cancer, and endothelial cells with a putative pro-fibrotic function in COVID-19. At CeMM, her lab focuses on deciphering the transcriptomic landscape and role of circulating endothelial cells in health and aging.
Read more about Laura de Rooij’s research

André Rendeiro is a Principal Investigator at CeMM since June 2022. He leads a group studying how cells interact to generate complex physiology in the human body, and how this changes over the lifespan of individuals and gives rise to disease. To do that, his group develops computational methods for the analysis of spatial data (spatial transcriptomics, highly multiplexed imaging, histopathological images), and its integration with various modalities of molecular, demographic, and clinical data of individuals along their lifespan. Prior to starting his group, André studied in Portugal, Austria, and Norway and earned his PhD in Molecular Medicine at CeMM in Vienna. During his PhD he developed methods for high-throughput cellular profiling and perturbation at single-cell resolution, applying them to leukemia, in the lab of Christoph Bock at CeMM. Between 2020 and 2022 he was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute for Precision Medicine and the Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. There he developed computational methods for the analysis of highly-multiplexed imaging that incorporate expression, morphology, micro-anatomy, and clinical covariates, in the lab of Olivier Elemento. He led the first tissue-level, single-cell resolution maps of lung pathology during COVID-19, and also contributed to the study of cancer, lung development, and disease, as well as COVID-19 immunology.
Read more about André Rendeiro’s research

The CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is an international, independent, and interdisciplinary research institution for molecular medicine under the scientific direction of Giulio Superti-Furga. CeMM is oriented toward medical needs and integrates basic research and clinical expertise to develop innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for precision medicine. Research focuses on cancer, inflammation, metabolic and immune disorders, and rare diseases. The Institute’s research building is located on the campus of the Medical University and the Vienna General Hospital.

Angelini Ventures, the venture capital arm of Angelini Industries, is an early-stage investment firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in digital health and life sciences. The group will invest €300M across a global portfolio led by investment professionals and advisors in Europe, North America, and Asia. Angelini Ventures has deep domain expertise and leverages a global team, advisors, and strategic partners to help entrepreneurs scale their businesses into transformative category-leading companies.

Angelini Industries is a multinational industrial group originally founded in Ancona (Italy) in 1919 by Francesco Angelini. Today it is a solid, structured industrial business with around 5,800 employees operating in 21 countries.  Angelini Industries operates in the health, industrial technology, and consumer goods businesses. Its investment strategy aimed at growth, constant commitment to research and development, and deep knowledge of markets and business sectors make Angelini Industries an Italian leader in the industries in which it operates.  The group is committed to reducing its environmental impact and finding increasingly cutting-edge circular economy solutions. It adopts the most advanced health and safety standards for workers and the most rigorous processes to ensure the highest quality by verifying the entire supply chain: from supplier certification to the control of raw materials, the production process, the finished product, and packaging, to spot checks at the point of sale.  For over 100 years, the Angelini family has steered the development of Angelini Industries with an entrepreneurial style typical of Italian family businesses.

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