January 29, 2014 - By Krista Conger
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine today awarded $40 million to Stanford University for the creation of a stem cell genomics center of excellence.
Co-directed by researchers at Stanford's School of Medicine and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., the center will bring together seven institutions to apply the power of genomic and bioinformatics approaches to solve mysteries of stem cell biology.
Of the total award, $19 million is to be used to support independent and collaborative projects among researchers throughout California.
Five other Stanford researchers also received research grants under the stem cell agency's fifth round of basic biology grants during a meeting of the agency's board of directors in Berkeley, bringing the total awarded today to Stanford to about $46 million.
Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics at Stanford, and Joseph Ecker, PhD, a professor in the plant biology laboratory at Salk, will serve as co-principal investigators for the center. Other institutions involved include the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego and Maryland, UC-Santa Cruz, UC-San Diego, Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and Illumina Inc. in San Diego.
"We are extremely pleased and excited to launch this center, which will greatly elevate stem cell research throughout California and the world by bringing state-of-the-art expertise to researchers thirsty for access to these technologies," said Snyder, who also directs Stanford's Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine and is the Stanford W. Ascherman, MD, FACS, Professor in Genetics. "Many of the expert collaborators involved in the new center have themselves developed the cutting-edge technologies that will be available."
In addition to outside collaborations, the center will pursue some fundamental questions and goals of its own, including collecting and characterizing induced pluripotent stem cell lines from patients with familial cardiomyopathy; applying single-cell genomic techniques to better understand cellular subpopulations within diseased and healthy brain and pancreatic tissues; and developing novel computational tools to analyze networks underlying stem cell genome function.
The center will also have a data collection and management component, run by UC-Santa Cruz, to facilitate the analysis of the large amounts of data generated via genomics study.
"This Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics shows why we are considered one of the global leaders in stem cell research," said Alan Trounson, PhD, president of the stem cell agency, in a statement. "Bringing together this team to do this kind of work means we will be better able to understand how stem cells change as they grow and become different kinds of cells. That deeper knowledge, that you can only get through a genomic analysis of the cells, will help us develop better ways of using these cells to come up with new treatments for deadly diseases."
The basic biology grants support research into significant, unresolved issues in human stem cell biology. Researchers applying for the fifth round of these awards were asked to explore fundamental mechanisms and exploratory concepts to test highly novel, potentially transformative hypotheses.
Stanford recipients of the grants, which range from about $970,000 to $1.2 million, include Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology; Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, professor of neurology; Gary Steinberg, MD, PhD, professor of neurosurgery and of neurology; Xinnan Wang, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery; and Marius Wernig, MD, assistant professor of pathology.
Topics include investigating how human muscle stem cells establish a hierarchy and become dysfunctional during aging, how stem cell potency is regulated on a molecular level, how neural stem cells mediate recovery from stroke, how mitochondrial turnover is misregulated in Parkinson's disease and what mechanisms underlie human-induced neuronal cell reprogramming.
With these awards, Stanford has received about $336 million from the stem cell agency. CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of a statewide ballot measure that provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions.
Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, and Stanford Children's Health. For more information, please visit the Office of Communications website at http://mednews.stanford.edu.