A photo of James Wells, PhD.

Director for Research, Division of Endocrinology

Chief Scientific Office, Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM)

Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



Biography & Affiliation


The focus of his teams basic research has been to identify the molecular mechanisms involved in the embryonic development of endocrine cells including pancreatic beta cells and tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. Their translational projects have focused on identifying new approaches to improve child health in several ways: 1. To identify and use embryonic pathways to generate complex, three-dimensional organ tissues from pluripotent stem cells, 2. Use these tissues to develop new in vitro human models for diabetes and digestive disease research and 3. Develop long-term, therapeutic strategies for cell and tissue-replacement therapies.

Research Interests

Understanding the development of the pancreas, and gastrointestinal organs; generating 3-dimensional human tissues from pluripotent stem cells and using these as human models of diabetes and digestive disease.

For more information, please visit the CuSTOM web page.

Academic Affiliation

Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics


Endocrinology, Developmental Biology


BS: Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Maine, Orono, ME, 1987.

PhD: Graduate program in Genetics, SUNY at Stony Brook, New York, 1995.

Postdoctoral Fellow: Harvard University, Cambridge MA, 1996 - 2001. 


Recent advances in deriving human endodermal tissues from pluripotent stem cells. Kechele, DO; Wells, JM. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 2019; 61:92-100.

A Comprehensive Structure-Function Study of Neurogenin3 Disease-Causing Alleles during Human Pancreas and Intestinal Organoid Development. Zhang, X; McGrath, PS; Salomone, J; Rahal, M; McCauley, HA; Schweitzer, J; Kovall, R; Gebelein, B; Wells, JM. Developmental Cell. 2019; 50:367-380.e7.

Organoids by design. Takebe, T; Wells, JM. Science. 2019; 364:956-959.

Increased Programmed Death-Ligand 1 is an Early Epithelial Cell Response to Helicobacter pylori Infection. Holokai, L; Chakrabarti, J; Broda, T; Chang, J; Hawkins, JA; Sundaram, N; Wroblewski, LE; Jr, PR M; Wang, J; Helmrath, M; et al. PLoS Pathogens. 2019; 15:e1007468-e1007468.

Generation of human antral and fundic gastric organoids from pluripotent stem cells. Broda, TR; McCracken, KW; Wells, JM. Nature Protocols. 2019; 14:28-50.

Human stomach-on-a-chip with luminal flow and peristaltic-like motility. Lee, KK; McCauley, HA; Broda, TR; Kofron, MJ; Wells, JM; Hong, CI. Lab on a Chip: miniaturisation for chemistry, physics, biology, materials science and bioengineering. 2018; 18:3079-3085.

Esophageal Organoids from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Delineate Sox2 Functions during Esophageal Specification. Trisno, SL; Philo, KE D; McCracken, KW; Cata, EM; Ruiz-Torres, S; Rankin, SA; Han, L; Nasr, T; Chaturvedi, P; Rothenberg, ME; et al. Cell Stem Cell. 2018; 23:501-515.e7.

Deriving functional human enteroendocrine cells from pluripotent stem cells. Sinagoga, KL; McCauley, HA; Munera, JO; Reynolds, NA; Enriquez, JR; Watson, C; Yang, H; Helmrath, MA; Wells, JM. Development (Cambridge). 2018; 145:dev165795-dev165795.

Mechanically induced development and maturation of human intestinal organoids in vivo. Poling, HM; Wu, D; Brown, N; Baker, M; Hausfeld, TA; Huynh, N; Chaffron, S; Dunn, JC Y; Hogan, SP; Wells, JM; et al. Nature Biomedical Engineering. 2018; 2:429-442.

Organoid Center Strategies for Accelerating Clinical Translation. Takebe, T; Wells, JM; Helmrath, MA; Zorn, AM. Cell Stem Cell. 2018; 22:806-809.