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Stanford faculty receive grants from state stem cell agency

Three Stanford faculty members were awarded $6 million to support research into a blistering skin disease, transplanted stem cells and novel ways to grow blood stem cells.

- By Krista Conger

Anthony Oro

The governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded about $6 million to three School of Medicine researchers on Nov. 30. One award is meant to support translational research that has already shown early stage promise; the other two are smaller, proof-of-principle grants meant to allow researchers to test potentially important ideas in the stem cell field at the earliest stages of discovery.

Anthony Oro, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology, received $5.6 million to support his work in developing new treatments for children with a blistering skin disease. The award will be used to develop technologies necessary to scale up production of a patient’s own genetically corrected induced pluripotent stem cells to clinically useful levels.

“Our team will work with the newly formed Stanford Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine and the Laboratory for Cell and Gene Medicine to develop a clinically robust and widely available treatment,” Oro said. “We hope our efforts will also facilitate other normal and genetically corrected tissue replacement therapies that the center aims to develop at Stanford.”  

Two other faculty members — assistant professor of medicine Guillem Pratx, PhD, and professor of genetics Hiromitsu Nakauchi, MD — received about $235,000 each as part of the agency’s Discovery Inception grant program. Pratx will use the award to develop a sensitive and noninvasive way to track the movement and location of stem cells injected into the body, and Nakauchi is working to develop novel ways to grow blood stem cells outside the body for study and transplantation.

“Exploring and testing new ideas increases the chances of finding treatments for patients with unmet medical needs. Without [the institute’s] support many of these projects might never get off the ground,” said Maria Millan, MD, president and CEO of the institute, in a statement. “That’s why our ability to fund research, particularly at the earliest stage, is so important to the field as a whole.”

In total, the agency awarded about $16.4 million at the meeting to support 17 projects.

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