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Apr. 9--Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, captured headlines around the world last week with news that seven of his patients were thriving with bladder tissue made in his laboratory from the patients' own cells.
It's the stuff of medical legend.
And it's exactly what Richard Dean, the president of Wake Forest University Health Sciences, banked on when he recruited Atala from Harvard University in 2003 to invigorate the downtown Piedmont Triad Research Park.
Even three years ago Dean had reason to believe that Atala was a surer bet than he could let on. The bladder surgery was done, and all Atala needed to make his findings public was proof that his patients would not develop complications.
"We knew all these things that were just published," Dean said. "Just not really on the record."
Now that the word is out, business leaders said that the tissue project might just be what it takes to distinguish a city known for cigarettes and doughnuts from every other midsize city trying to remake itself as a biotechnology center.
"This announcement absolutely creates a bigger spot on the biotech map for Winston-Salem and Wake Forest because good science acts like an entrepreneurial magnet," said Gwyn Riddick, the director of the Triad office of the N.C. Biotechnology Center.
The technology Atala used to make bladder tissue has unlimited potential, Atala said. He …