Director, Developmental Biology, Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapeutics program
Professor of Pediatrics, Surgery and Craniofacial Biology, Keck School of Medicine and Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California.
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Dr. Warburton directs both the Developmental Biology, Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapeutics program and the Center for Environmental Impact on Global Health Across the Lifespan at The Saban Research Institute, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

A distinguished national and global scientific thought leader in maternal and child health, Dr. Warburton has established and leads a field termed molecular embryology of the lung.  He has published many foundational discoveries in this field, showing how morphogenetic signaling plays a key and necessary role in development of the lung. Subsequently, he has shown that these same processes are clearly replicated, but in an abnormal fashion, in common diseases of the child and adult lung including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, asthma, COPD, emphysema and fibrosis. He has in fact pioneered the concept that abnormal lung development is a precursor to many genetic as well as acquired diseases of the human lung.

Dr. Warburton founded this research program in 1986. It now comprises over 100 researchers seeking to find translational regenerative solutions for pediatric and adult diseases in many organ systems including lung, heart, gut, liver, pancreas, skin, bone and joint, and spinal cord fusion. More than 50 young scientists have become independent investigators under his mentorship during this period of time.

To date, he has made more than 400 contributions to the medical scientific literature in this and related fields, which have been cited over 15,000 times.

In his earlier work as a pioneering neonatologist, Warburton was instrumental in discovering several key parameters of intensive care for premature infants as well as for infants of diabetic mothers. His work has contributed to saving many hundreds of thousands of young lives in the United States and abroad.

Dr. Warburton is active in global health, particularly in emerging countries in Asia and Africa. For example, he has worked in Mongolia to improve child and maternal health for more than 15years. He founded a Department of Environmental Health at the National Mongolian University of the Medical Sciences and has supervised more than 20 graduate students working to improve the impact of air pollution on health across the lifespan in that country.

Dr. Warburton was born and educated in London at St. Thomas’s Hospital, and emigrated from the UK in 1976 to become a junior physician at Harvard and Brown. His most seminal medical scientific work has been conducted in Los Angeles. He has been honored by the Queen of England with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his collaborative work in UK/USA health care research and has been appointed a Fellow of several Royal Colleges.


Medical School: 

University of London, UK


St Thomas's Hospital, Brompton Hospital, London, UK


Children's Hospital Boston; Pediatrics


Rhode Island Hospital/Providence; Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine



Pediatrics; American Board of Pediatrics;Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine; American Board of Pediatrics

Medical Memberships: 

Western Society for Pediatric Research, 1979-present Society for Critical Care Medicine, 1980-87 American Academy of Pediatrics, 1980- present American Thoracic Society, 1982-present Society for Pediatric Research, 1984- present American College of Chest Physicians, 1987-present American Physiological Society, 1989- present Perinatal Research Society, 1989-1995 American Society for Cell Biology, 1989- present Society for Developmental Biology, 1990- present American Pediatric Society, 1991-present American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2002-present

Medical Awards: 

Doctor of Science, University of London Master of Medical Management, USC Marshall School of Business Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Rothschild Professor of the Curie Institute, Lady Davis Professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Rappaport Professor, Rambam and Technion, Haifa, Israel Fogarty International Fellow, University of Dundee, Scotland Robert M McAlister, MD Faculty mentoring excellence award USC-Mellon Faculty to Faculty Mentoring ward, Knight's Charity Prize for Excellence, London Borough of Edmonton, 1960 Medical Research Council Scholarship in Physiology, 1969-70 Beaney Prize in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, St. Thomas' Hospital Medical School, University of London, 1973 Bhatia Medal & Prize in Paediatrics, St. Thomas' Hospital Medical School, University of London, 1974 NIH Special Emphasis Research Career Award, 1982-87 Winthrop-Breon Research Award American College of Chest Physicians Civil Honours Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, New Years Honours, Diplomatic and Overseas List, 2009 Thanks of the President and People of Mongolia, 2007 Thanks of the Ministry of Health of Mongolia, 2008 Order of the Silver Falcon of Mongolia, 2010

Other Information


FGF9-Pitx2-FGF10 signaling controls cecal formation. Al Alam D, Sala FG, Baptista S, Galzote R, Danopoulos S, Tiozzo C, Gage P, Grikscheit T, Warburton D, Frey MR, Bellusci S. Dev Biol. 2012 Sep 15;369(2):340-8. Epub 2012 Jul 20. 

Modulating the alveolar milieu to enhance resolution of fibrotic lung injury. Garcia O, Buckley S, Navarro S, Driscoll B, Warburton D. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2012 Jul;9(3):117-9. 

Molecular mechanisms of MMP9 overexpression and its role in emphysema pathogenesis of Smad3-deficient subjects. Xu B, Chen H, Xu W, Zhang W, Buckley S, Zheng SG, Warburton D, Kolb M, Gauldie J, Shi W.Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Jul;303(2):L89-96. Epub 2012 May 18.

Adoptive transfer of induced-treg cells effectively attenuates murine airway allergic inflammation. Xu W, Lan Q, Chen M, Chen H, Zhu N, Zhou X, Wang J, Fan H, Yan CS, Kuang JL, Warburton D, Togbe D, Ryffel B, Zheng SG, Shi W. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40314. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

Impact of stem cells in craniofacial regenerative medicine. Sanchez-Lara PA, Zhao H, Bajpai R, Abdelhamid AI, Warburton D. Front Physiol. 2012;3:188. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

Numb Expression and Asymmetric Versus Symmetric Cell Division in Distal Embryonic Lung Epithelium. El-Hashash AH, Warburton D. J Histochem Cytochem. 2012 Jun 19. 

Eya1 protein phosphatase regulates tight junction formation in lung distal epithelium. El-Hashash AH, Turcatel G, Varma S, Al Alam D, Warburton D. J Cell Sci. 2012 Jun 8.

Isolation and characterization of distal lung progenitor cells. Driscoll B, Kikuchi A, Lau AN, Lee J, Reddy R, Jesudason E, Kim CF, Warburton D. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;879:109-22.

Injection of amniotic fluid stem cells delays progression of renal fibrosis. Sedrakyan S, Da Sacco S, Milanesi A, Shiri L, Petrosyan A, Varimezova R, Warburton D, Lemley KV, De Filippo RE, Perin L. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2012 Apr;23(4):661-73. Epub 2012 Feb 2.

MIR-99a and MIR-99b modulate TGF-β induced epithelial to mesenchymal plasticity in normal murine mammary gland cells. Turcatel G, Rubin N, El-Hashash A, Warburton D. PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e31032. Epub2012 Jan 27.

HIghest Impact Articles

Research Interests: 


Research Topics

  • Developmental biology of organs, particularly the lung

  • The genetic and molecular basis of the response to injury

  • Organ specific progenitor cells

  • Tissue regeneration using endogenous and exogenous stem/progenitor cells and tissue engineering

  • Stem cell-based therapies for developmental biology and regenerative medicine 

Research OverviewLungimage.jpg

David Warburton, MD leads the Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine Program at the Saban Research Institute. The mission of this program is to discover the molecular and genetic regulatory networks that mediate organ formation in humans as well as other organisms. By knowing these facts to devise and translate regenerative and reparative solutions for under developed or damaged organs, including stem cell based therapies and tissue engineering. 

Dr. Warburton's long standing personal interest has been in doing this with the lung, which arose from his experiences early in his career as one of the first physicians to be Board Certified in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. Other investigators have joined this effort so the Program now works on regenerative solutions for:

  • Lung
  • Heart
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Intestines
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Skin 
  • Brain 

Key Recent Findings

  • The role of key proteins in wound healing in the tiny air sacs in the lungs known as "alveoli" that could lead to new therapies for children and adults.
  • Determined that the damaged AEC2 environment was chemoattractive to uncommitted human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs). Migration of the hAFSCs to the AEC2s increased 20-fold over normal, and the stem cells not only attached themselves within an in vitro AEC2 wound, they accelerated its healing. 
  • Blood vessels determine the reproducible three-dimensional branching pattern of lung airways.
  • The research team employed a breakthrough computer-based three-dimensional reconstruction technique in its studies to view lung tissue and its growth processes at work.

  • Eya1 phosphatase controls fate of embryonic lung epithelial stem cells.

  • Investigators have pinpointed how the early-stage human embryo organizes stem cells for particular functions in the body. With this information scientists can now understand how blood vessels direct the formation of organs from these stem cells. Additionally, stem cells are being isolated from amniotic fluid and show promise for therapeutic purposes.

In The News


  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) 
  • CIRM
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences/National Science Foundation
  • American Lung Association
  • Garland Foundation
  • Pasadena Guild of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles
  • John Jewett and Helen Chandler Garland Foundation
  • Webb Foundation
  • MRC
  • Wellcome Trust
  • Royal College of Surgeons of England
  • American Heart Association
  • Lady Davis Fellowship Trust of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Israeli Science Foundation 
  • Major Anonymous Philanthropy

4650 Sunset Blvd
Surgery Research, #35
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: 323-361-5422Office
Fax: 323-671-3613Fax