The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is a major funding agency for stem cell research in the Golden State. Since voters approved the establishment of the agency in 2004, the CIRM has spent billions on research and facilities with the aim of making California the stem cell capital of the US. Now, in a move to advance that research mission even further, the agency has announced awards of $32M to investigators and stem cell companies to create a biobank of diseased cell lines for the use of researchers around the world. Called the Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (hiPSC) Initiative Awards, the project will generate and ensure the availability of high quality disease-specific hiPSC resources for disease modeling, target discovery and drug discovery and development for prevalent, genetically complex diseases.
[Stem cells in storage at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco, photo by Brant Ward for the SF Chronicle]
The biobanking project will involve these steps:
- Collect tissue samples from individuals with certain diseases ($6.3M to 7 California investigators)
- Create iPSC lines from those samples ($16M)
- Store cells in a centralized biobank facility and make them available to researchers ($10M)
Because the cells are genetically identical to the individuals who donated the original tissue samples, they will include the genetic variations that occur among individuals suffering from the same disease. According to CIRM director Alan Trounson, access to these specific profiles (3,000 of them), for 11 different diseases, will allow scientists "to discover the nature and causes of the underlying human diseases in a way not feasible before."
"We are hopeful these cells will be an incredible resource for scientists in their quest for understanding the origins and causes of human pathologies.”
The investigator-awardees tasked with collecting the initial tissue samples are:
- Joseph Gleeson, UCSD
- Douglas Galasko, UCSD
- Kang Zhang, UCSD
- Brigitte N. Gomperts, UCLA
- Joseph C Wu, Stanford University
- Joachim Franz Hallmayer, Stanford University
- Jacquelyn J Maher, UCSF
In other CIRM news, a call for applications has been announced for a new round of the Basic Biology Awards addressing fundamental mechanisms of cell destiny. These awards will be granted later this year. An earlier round of the Basic Biology Awards included (as an example) no fewer than eight awards of over $1.4M each to UCSD researchers alone.
Earlier this month, the CIRM was presented with the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award by Research!America, which is considered one of the most prestigious awards in public health. In addition to forming national and global partnerships and supporting collaboration and innovation between public and private entities, CIRM investment is credited with bringing in $286M in new tax revenues for the state as a result of commercialization and attracting new business to the state.
[California map courtesy of Top 50 States]
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