State stem cell agency awards three grants for development of new therapies at medical school

Joseph Wu

Joseph Wu

Three researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine were awarded today a total of $11.9 million from the state stem cell agency in the third round of its Early Translational Awards. The awards are meant to move promising stem cell therapies out of the laboratory and into human clinical testing.

Helen Blau, PhD; Joseph Wu, MD, PhD; and Renee Reijo Pera, PhD, will receive amounts ranging from $1.8 to $5.2 million to further their work in researching the use of pluripotent stem cells as therapy to rejuvenate old muscles, heal damaged hearts and treat urinary incontinence.

Wu’s $4.8 million award is of particular note because it supports an international collaboration between his lab and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany.

“Our collaborative funding program brings together the best researchers around the world,” Alan Trounson, PhD, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said in a news release. “These partnerships are critical in engaging the best minds and enabling the elite scientists of the world to work together to drive research towards the clinic for patients.”

In its latest round of grants, the agency awarded $69 million to fund 21 proposals. That means CIRM now has 52 projects in 33 diseases at varying stages of working toward clinical trials. “Californians should take pride in being at the center of this worldwide research leading toward new cures,” ” said Jonathan Thomas, JD, PhD, chair of CIRM’s governing board.

Blau, the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Professor and a member of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, was awarded $1.8 million to investigate whether muscle stem cells isolated from aging patients can be used to treat skeletal muscle atrophy.

Wu, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology and a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute, was awarded $4.8 million for a collaboration with Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research to use bioengineered tissue patches seeded with cardiomyocytes derived from human embryonic stem cells as a treatment for heart disease.

Reijo Pera, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the director of Stanford’s Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education and of its Center for Reproductive and Stem Cell Biology, was awarded $5.2 million to test the ability of smooth muscle cells and precursors derived from induced pluripotent stem cells to treat stress urinary incontinence.

With these grants, Stanford has received a total of over $198 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.


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