Leadership and Key Members

Bennett Novitch, Ph.D.

Bennett Novitch, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Bennett Novitch, Ph.D, seeks to understand the developmental mechanisms that lead to the assembly of the motor circuits that drive muscle movements. Through this work he hopes to find new ways to evaluate and understand injuries and diseases that affect motor functions and perhaps discover new ways to treat them.

One of Dr. Novitch’s primary goals is to identify growth factor signals in the embryo that aid in neuron formation and the genetic pathways those signals stimulate in hopes of evoking a stem cell repair response to replace damaged cells and bolster muscle function. He also seeks to discover ways to coax healthy neurons to grow and make new connections to bypass damaged or diseased connections. Dr. Novitch also is exploring whether stem cells derived from patients with neurodegenerative diseases can be used to model these disorders.

Dr. Novitch’s interest in stem cell research grew out of work he did as a graduate student, studying the gene regulatory network that enables the formation of skeletal muscle. As a post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Novitch identified growth factor signals and transcription factors that direct the formation of motor neurons in the spinal cord. His long-term goal is to discover how developmental mechanisms can be harnessed to program stem cells to form mature cells types with therapeutic and disease-modeling potential. His research already has led to the establishment of methods by which different classes of neurons, such as motor neurons, can be generated in culture from pluripotent stem cells and somatic cells.

In addition to being a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, Dr. Novitch also is affiliated with the Brain Research Institute, UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Molecular Biology Institute and the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. He also is a member of the Society for Developmental Biology and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

An assistant professor of neurobiology, Dr. Novitch joined the UCLA faculty from the University of Michigan, where he was an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology. He earned his master’s degree in medical sciences in 1993 from Harvard Medical School and his doctoral degree in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology in 1998 from Harvard University. He also completed postdoctoral training at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University.

Dr. Novitch’s work is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.