New Faculty

Last week's big news at CIRM was the election of Jonathan Thomas as the new governing board chair, as we announced late Wednesday night. He will be replacing Robert Klein, who has served the agency since its inception in 2004. Not that anyone can replace Klein, exactly, but Thomas seems eager to step in and start leading the agency.

CIRM grantee Robert Blelloch of the University of California, San Francisco won the 2011 Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Stem Cell Research. The society's annual meeting is taking place now in Toronto.

Blelloch presented his research June 15 at 6pm and will participate in a press briefing at noon June 16. His work focuses on the role of small molecules called microRNAs and their role in stem cell biology and cancer.

Blood has been among the most sought after and hardest to achieve tissue that CIRM grantees are attempting to derive from embryonic stem cells. It's an obvious target. The medical system needs a constant influx of blood, which comes entirely from volunteer donors. Creating that blood in an unlimited supply from human embryonic stem cells would significantly ease concerns about blood shortages at hospitals.

A story by Nick Wade in Monday's New York Times rubbed some scientists the wrong way - and I must admit the piece was not too popular around CIRM headquarters.

Wade equated research funding with picking stocks. His idea is that a broad portfolio is bound to include some winners (he attributes this approach to the NIH and NSF) whereas attempts to only buy the big winners can produce a risky portfolio (an approach he attributes to CIRM).