A team bringing together experts and investigators from seven different major California institutions has been awarded $40 million to create a new Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics, by California's stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The Center of Excellence will focus on bridging the fields of genomics—studying the complete genetic make-up of a cell or organism—with stem cell research. The goal is to use these tools to gain a deeper understanding of the disease processes in cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental health and, ultimately, to find safer and more effective ways of using stem cells in medical research and therapy.
"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, Ph.D., president of the stem cell agency. "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 Center of Excellence consists of Stanford University and the Salk Institute for Biological studies as the joint principal investigators; U.C. San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute, the J. Craig Venter Institute and Illumina, all in San Diego, also will collaborate on the project; U.C. Santa Cruz will run the data coordination and management component.
The award includes $19 million to carry out independent and collaborative projects including investigating disease mechanisms and the development of new technologies for this kind of work. The data coordination and management program will enable the research to be shared with other investigators around California and the world.
In addition to the Center of Excellence, the stem cell agency's governing board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), also approved more than $27 million in funding for the Basic Biology V awards. These go to researchers trying to advance the field by tackling significant, unresolved issues in human stem cell biology.
These awards, which go to 27 different projects, include:
"These awards reflect the breadth of what we do at the stem cell agency," said Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., chair of the governing board. "Funding the Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics highlights our commitment to advancing the field with the most cutting edge approaches, and our Basic Biology awards show we remain committed to deepening our understanding of every aspect of stem cells. Only by this deeper understanding at the basic level can we hope to advance research at more advanced levels."
Also, two new board members have joined, Lauren Miller as the patient advocate for Alzheimer's disease and Joe Panetta as the representative for the biotech industry.