Thursday, 30 January 2014

CIRM funds more than $66 Million in research including new genomics initiative

A team bringing together experts and investigators from seven different major California institutions has been awarded $40 million to create a new Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics, by California’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The Center of Excellence will focus on bridging the fields of genomics - studying the complete genetic make-up of a cell or organism - with stem cell research. The goal is to use these tools to gain a deeper understanding of the disease processes in cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental health, and ultimately to try and find safer and more effective ways of using stem cells in medical research and therapy.

"This Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics shows why we are considered one of the global leaders in stem cell research. Bringing together this team, to do this kind of work means we will be better able to understand how stem cells change as they grow and become different kinds of cells. That deeper knowledge, that you can only get through a genomic analysis of the cells, will help us develop better ways of using these cells to come up with new treatments for deadly diseases." said Alan Trounson, Ph.D., President of the stem cell agency.

The Center of Excellence consists of Stanford University and the Salk Institute for Biological studies as the joint Principal Investigators; U.C. San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute, the J. Craig Venter Institute and Illumina Inc., all in San Diego, will also collaborate on the project; U.C. Santa Cruz will run the Data Coordination and Management component.

The award includes $19 million for the Center team to carry out independent and collaborative projects including investigating disease mechanisms and the development of new technologies for this kind of work. The Data Coordination and Management program will enable the research to be shared with other investigators around California and the world.

In addition to the Center of Excellence the stem cell agency’s governing Board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) also approved more than $27 million in funding for the Basic Biology V awards. These go to researchers trying to advance the field by tackling significant, unresolved issues in human stem cell biology.

These awards, which go to 27 different projects, include:
  • $1.1 million to Dr. Gary Steinberg, a neurologist at Stanford University, to study how human neural or brain nerve stem cells can help people recovering from a stroke.
  • $1.1 million to Dr. Christian Metallo from the University of California, San Diego, to better understand what nutrients are needed to make stem cells grow and function as heart cells, for use in treating heart disease.
  • $624,816 to Dr. Paul Noble, Director of the Lung Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to identify the mechanisms needed for stem cells to help repair damage to lungs.

"These awards reflect the breadth of what we do at the stem cell agency. Funding the Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics highlights our commitment to advancing the field with the most cutting edge approaches, and our Basic Biology awards show we remain committed to deepening our understanding of every aspect of stem cells. Only by this deeper understanding at the basic level can we hope to advance research at more advanced levels." said Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., Chair of the governing Board. 

The meeting also saw the swearing in of two new Board members – Lauren Miller as the Patient Advocate for Alzheimer’s and Joe Panetta as the representative for the biotech industry.

The Board also passed a resolution honoring Michael Goldberg, who is standing down after two terms on the ICOC. Goldberg was praised for a “bringing wealth of knowledge, insight, and experience to CIRM” and that his commitment and leadership “contributed greatly to the momentum of discovery and the future therapies which will be the ultimate outcome of the dedicated work of the researchers receiving CIRM funding.”


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