The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has just celebrated the opening of its latest state-of-the-art research labs, at UC Santa Barbara's Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering. The new labs are located in the Bio II Building next to the Life Sciences Building on the eastern edge of campus. The 10,000sf, $6.4M wholesale renovation has taken about 5 years to go from concept to full realization. All funding came from CIRM or private donations, to allow faculty the flexibility to study the full range of stem cell technologies, without regard to federal funding limitations. The new Center is part of the Neuroscience Research Institute at UCSB.
Already the overhauled lab facility has allowed the University the leverage to lure some impressive new faculty, most notably British stem cell research biologist Peter Coffey, who was recruited last year with a $4.9M package, according to the California Stem Cell Report blog, which said of the hire: "UC Santa Barbara has scored a major coup in the world of stem cell science."
New labs are always exciting and full of promise, but UCSB's stem cell research program is unique for bringing engineers into the wet project mix. Of course one of UCSB's greatest strengths is in engineering, so tapping that resource to forward translational bioscience research makes great sense (and fuels its fast-growing Bioengineering program as well). Dr. Coffey, whose specialty is macular degeneration, speaks of this meeting of minds and laboratories as singular in the world:
"To be part of UC Santa Barbara at this time is extremely exciting. Today we're actually opening the center for stem cell biology and engineering, bringing two components together which are not available anywhere else in the world, engineering and stem cell biology together, to transform and actually speed what is very dear to my heart, which is the translation of science to it's clinical use."
With his appointment at UCSB made permanent, Dr. Coffey will be able to more productively continue a collaboration he has been involved in with Dr. Mark Humayun of USC Neuroscience. The project, Stem cell based treatment strategy for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), is also funded by the CIRM with a $15M grant. Coffey also intends to continue the important clinical research project he spearheaded in the UK, the London Project to Cure Blindness, though presumably under a new name here in California. He also looks forward to daily interaction with once-long-distance-colleague Tom Soh. Indeed, while shiny new lab facilities and a generous hiring package were attractive, Dr. Coffey credits the outstanding faculty at UCSB for offering the real opportunity he couldn't refuse.
Coffey will be co-director of the UCSB Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering and head of its translational research function. Other directors are:
- Dennis O. Clegg, Strategy, Planning and Operations, also professor in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and faculty member at the Center for Bioengineering
- H. Tom Soh, Technology and Engineering, also professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials and faculty member at the Center for Bioengineering
- James A. Thomson, Biology, also professor in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, as well as Director of Regenerative Biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research and a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
- Sherry Hikita, Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology
In addition to building funds and faculty support, the CIRM also supports junior researchers. UCSB just announced CIRM fellowship funding for 7 young stem cell scholars: 4 post-docs and 3 pre-docs.
For an earlier blog of ours on UCSB Drs. Soh and Thomson and the new bioengineering building that is under construction, follow this link.
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will be on the UCSB campus on April 2, 2013 to hold our 5th Santa Barbara BioResearch Product Faire FrontLine event, connecting researchers with the resources they need to further their science research goals. Life science researchers, lab managers, and purchasing agents are actively invited to attend. Potential exhibitors can click the button below for more information on the upcoming show: