State stem cell agency awards $10.6 million to six Stanford scientists

- By Krista Conger

Six Stanford University researchers have been awarded a total of $10.6 million to address technical bottlenecks in the progress of stem cell science and aid in the translation of stem cell therapies to the clinic. The awards are part of $32 million granted to seven not-for-profit and three for-profit institutions by the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine during a meeting Jan. 27 in San Francisco.

The three-year grants represent the second round of the institute’s Tools and Technologies Awards.

“These awards are a crucial component of CIRM’s commitment to accelerate the development of stem cell-based therapies for people of the world,” said Alan Trounson, CIRM president. “CIRM funds all stages of therapy development, from basic research to translational awards, but any of these could be stalled by technological bottlenecks. In funding these innovative tools and technologies, CIRM is removing those barriers before they can delay cures.”

Stanford researchers who received the awards include:

  • Michele Calos, PhD, professor of genetics, who received $1.6 million to develop cellular models of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Ricardo Dolmetsch, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology, who received $1.9 million to develop an in vitro model for a rare form of autism.
  • Sarah Heilshorn, PhD, associate professor of materials science and engineering, who received $1.4 million to optimize the use of three-dimensional hydrogels to make growing stem cells less costly and more efficient.
  • Brian Rutt, PhD, professor of radiology, who received $1.9 million to work out new ways to label transplanted stem cells for tracking within the body.
  • Marius Wernig, MD, assistant professor of pathology, who received $1.9 million to generate functional neurons from the skin cells of patients with a variety of brain diseases including schizophrenia, depression and autism.
  • Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology and director of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, who received $1.9 million to devise ways to use antibodies to isolate specific populations of tissue-specific stem cells from a mixture of differentiated embryonic stem cells.

With these grants, Stanford has now received a total of about $186.5 million from 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 provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions and required setting up the agency, CIRM, to oversee allocation of the money.

To date, CIRM has awarded 364 grants worth more than $1 billion in 18 rounds of funding.

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