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Stanford University Researchers Awarded Six Grants Worth $17 Million In CRIM Grants


Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine were awarded six grants worth more than $15 million on March 16 from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the agency created to fund embryonic stem cell research. With the addition of embryonic stem cell researcher Renee Rejo Pera, PhD, who will move to Stanford from UC-San Francisco in April, it brings Stanford’s total to seven grants totaling more than $17 million.

Stanford’s grants of roughly $2.5 million each were part of the 29 grants given to 12 nonprofit institutions by CIRM’s oversight committee. Some of the grant money will be disbursed as early as April 1.

With the 12 CIRM grants given to Stanford researchers last month, the university has now received 19 grants and nearly $26 million — more total CIRM funding than any other single institution.

“We are gratified that our long commitment and the few new recruits we have made have passed the bar of excellence,” said Irving Weissman, MD, director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. “Now we need to move the science of stem cells to advancing medicine and medical science for the eventual benefit of patients.”

This round of grants will fund efforts by Stanford researchers to create new lines of human embryonic stem cells and to derive different cell types from both new and existing cell lines. One grant proposes to isolate heart and blood stem cells from embryonic stem cells while other grants focus on generating inner ear cells, nerve cells or cells for cardiovascular tissue grafts.

This focus on creating new stem cell lines and learning how to direct the cells’ development is part of CIRM’s 10-year plan to translate basic research into cures. The first step of that plan is to generate the types of cells and tissues that can be used to better understand and treat diseases.

The grants announced March 16 are the second of three types of grants to be awarded this year, and were given to experienced stem cell researchers continuing established programs. The first round, announced Feb. 16, were given to new scientists in embryonic stem cell research or to veteran scientists establishing new stem cell research programs.

In June, CIRM will announce funding for new facilities where researchers can work with stem cell lines not approved for funding with federal dollars. Research involving human embryonic stem cells created after August 2001 can’t receive federal funding and can’t take place in facilities that were either built or equipped with federal dollars. The CIRM grants will help institutions provide space for researchers working with these newer stem cell lines.

CIRM was established in 2004 when California voters approved Proposition 71, enabling the state to sell bonds that would generate $3 billion over 10 years to fund stem cell research. Those funds have been held up by legal battles with critics. CIRM was still able to award smaller grants to fund training programs last year by selling bond anticipatory notes to six philanthropic agencies. Stanford was one of 16 institutions to receive a training grant in that round of funding.

President Bush vetoed a bill last November that would have allowed federal funding for the creation of new human embryonic stem cell lines from donated embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures. The next day, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized a $150 million loan to CIRM that has been used to support grants until the agency can resolve its legal battles and sell bonds.

Weissman said CIRM’s efforts to find sources of funding for stem cell research, even while the institute was held up in legal battles, has allowed the field to move forward in California in a way that hasn’t been possible in the rest of the country.

Stanford researchers who received the second round of CIRM grants include:

Irving Weissman, MD, the Virginia & D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research: Prospective isolation of heart and blood-forming stem cells derived from human embryonic stem cells;

Julie Baker, PhD, assistant professor of genetics: Functional genomic analysis of chemically defined human embryonic stem cells;

Stefan Heller, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology: Generation of inner ear sensory cells from human embryonic stem cells toward a cure for deafness;

Theo Palmer, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery: Immunology of neural stem cell fate and function;

Renee Rejo Pera, PhD, who is moving from UCSF to Stanford: Establishment of stem cell lines from somatic cell nuclear transfer-embryos in humans
Roel Nusse, PhD, professor of developmental biology: Guiding the developmental program of human embryonic stem cells by isolated Wnt factors;

Christopher Zarins, MD, the Walter Clifford Chidester and Elsa Rooney Chidester Professor of Surgery: Engineering a cardiovascular tissue graft from human embryonic stem cells.


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