Stem Cell Agency Funds More Than $66 Million in Research Including New Genomics Initiative

San Francisco, CA – 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,” says Alan Trounson, Ph.D., President of the stem cell agency. “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.”

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,” says Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., Chair of the governing Board. “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.” 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.”

Basic Biology V Awards

Grant number Name Institution Total Funds Requested
RB5-07363 Gary Steinberg Stanford University $1,178,370
RB5-07466 Marius Wernig Stanford University $1,178,370
RB5-07469 Helen Blau Stanford University $1,175,357
RB5-07236 Maike Sander University of California, San Diego $1,161,000
RB5-07356 Christian Metallo University of California, San Diego $1,124,834
RB5-07025 Cornelis Murre University of California, San Diego $1,161,000
RB5-07012 Wei Wang University of California, San Diego $1,161,000
RB5-07384 Ronald Evans Salk Institute $1,491,900
RB5-07302 Paul Noble Cedars-Sinai $624,816
RB5-06978 David Cheresh University of California, San Diego $1,161,000
RB5-07480 Thomas Otis University of California, Los Angeles $1,148,758
RB5-07254 Lisa Flanagan University of California, Irvine $1,003,590
RB5-06974 Andrew Dillin University of California, Berkeley $1,174,040
RB5-07230 Denis Evseenko University of California, Los Angeles $1,146,468
RB5-07210 Miles Wilkinson University of California, San Diego $619,200
RB5-07422 Thomas Rando Palo Alto Institute for Research and Education, Inc. $966,510
RB5-07089 Lili Yang University of California, Los Angeles $614,400
RB5-07011 Lawrence Goldstein University of California, San Diego $1,161,000
RB5-07262 Mark Anderson University of California, San Francisco $1,191,000
RB5-07379 Dianne McKay University of California, San Diego $615,639
RB5-07409 Valeria Weaver University of California, San Francisco $1,186,500
RB5-06935 Xinnan Wang Stanford University $1,174,943
RB5-07458 Peter Donovan University of California, Irvine $540,480
RB5-07285 Sheng Ding The J. David Gladstone Institutes $1,423,800
RB5-07414 Kara McCloskey University of California, Merced $476,052
RB5-07320 Samantha Butler University of California, Los Angeles $598,367
RB5-07398 David Tirrell Cal Tech $526,896
Total     $26,985,290

About CIRM: CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research.

Kevin McCormack