Stem Cell :: USC receives nearly $3.4 million for stem cell research

Researchers from the University of Southern California received approximately $3.4 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for stem cell research.

?We are very pleased to be awarded these grants by CIRM to continue USC?s momentum in stem cell research,? says Martin Pera, Ph.D.,director of USC?s Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM) and professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine. ?The development of our proposals resulted in new collaborative interactions between researchers of USC, including Keck School of Medicine and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and regional institutions like Caltech. We have created potential for new interdisciplinary teams to work together, leveraging the strengths of each institution.?

USC proposals that were selected for funding include:Therapeutic potential of Retinal Pigment Epithelial cell lines derived from hES cells for retinal degeneration, David Hinton, University of Southern California. Screening for Oncogenic Epigenetic Alterations in Human ES Cells, Peter William Laird, University of Southern California.hESC as tools to investigate the neural crest origin of Ewing’s sarcoma, Elizabeth Lawlor, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.Regulation of human neural progenitor cell proliferation by Ryk-mediated Wnt signaling, Wange Lu, University of Southern California.Self-renewal of human embryonic stem cells, Qilong Ying, University of Southern California.

?USC recognizes the importance of stem cell research and is committed to advancing the field. In the last year, we have grown our center considerably by recruiting some of the brightest minds in stem cell research,? says Brian Henderson, M.D., dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. ?The CIRM funding coupled with our aggressive recruiting efforts positions us for important discoveries in the stem cell arena.?

In the spring of 2006, USC, along with its partner institution Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, received a three-year, $3.16 million stem cell training grant from CIRM to train graduate students as well as post-doctoral and clinical fellows across 27 departments at USC. Areas of study include bioethics and a unique tri-institutional stem-cell biology lecture courses, taught in conjunction with USC-affiliated Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Caltech. Students are learning cutting-edge gene-transfer technology applications in the clinic, medical applications and current stem-cell research.

CIRM is the organization established when California voters passed Proposition 71 in 2004 to borrow and spend $3 billion over 10 years to support stem cell research.

The organization funded 30 Scientific Excellence through Exploration and Development (SEED) grants this month, worth a combined $24 million, for scientists new to stem cell research. A second round of 25 Comprehensive Research Grants, aimed at established stem cell scientists, will be announced in March. Those 25 grants will be worth about $80 million over four years. USC submitted a total of 29 applications to be previewed as part of the two rounds of grants.

SEED grants, according to CIRM, are intended to bring new ideas and new investigators into the field of human embryonic stem cell research and offer an opportunity for investigators to carry out studies that may yield preliminary data or proof-of-principle results that could then be extended to full-scale investigations.

?These grants encourage new talent to explore stem cells, which ideally brings in new ideas and broadens the scope of research. The results may be the stepping stones in developing treatments for some of the most devastating diseases,? continues Pera.

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