August 20, 2009 - By Krista Conger
The California state stem cell agency today awarded three Stanford University researchers a total of $4.2 million to investigate what makes stem cells tick. The three-year grants are meant to provide the foundation for achieving clinical advances in the future.
Helen Blau, PhD, the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Professor at Stanford’s School of Medicine; Julien Sage, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics and of genetics at the School of Medicine; and biologist Susan McConnell, PhD, the Susan B. Ford professor, were each awarded about $1.4 million as part of the agency’s Basic Biology Awards I grant round. All told, the agency, officially known as the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, awarded a total of $16.4 million to 12 recipients at five California institutions in this funding cycle.
“These basic biology grants will generate new ideas for future therapies and also provide information to help overcome barriers in bringing therapies to patients,” said CIRM president Alan Trounson in a statement from the agency.
Blau, who directs the Baxter Laboratory of Genetic Pharmacology and is a member of Stanford’s Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institute, received her grant to investigate the molecular basis of how adult cells are reprogrammed to look and act like human embryonic stem cells. Ideally this information could be used to increase the efficiency of creation of these iPS cells. Sage was awarded funds to study the role of the retinoblastoma protein in cellular reprogramming. Both Blau and Sage are members of Stanford’s Cancer Center.
McConnell, who is a biology professor in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, received a grant to identify and characterize dopaminergic neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells.
The stem cell agency’s 29-member governing board also discussed the recommendations of California’s Little Hoover Commission regarding its organizational structure. In addition, it approved two new requests for applications for grants: one focused on stem cell transplantation and immunology, and another aimed at recruiting leading stem cell researchers to California.
In total, Stanford has received $111.3 million in grants from the state’s stem cell agency.
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