Grants Awarded to UCSF Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

February 16, 2007
News Office: Jennifer O'Brien (415) 502-6397

Eleven UCSF faculty members, representing medical disciplines ranging from breast cancer to Parkinson's disease to heart development research, were among scientists awarded funding today by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for human embryonic stem cell research.

Eight of the UCSF grants were awarded to scientists based at UCSF and three to researchers at the UCSF-affiliated J. David Gladstone Institutes. The awards are the first grants issued by the California agency for laboratory research. In April 2006, CIRM awarded its first round of competitive funds for stem cell training programs at UCSF and other California universities. CIRM was established by voters in November 2004 to administer $3 billion for stem cell research over 10 years.

"These grants are an important step forward for the stem cell field," says Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine. "They will support a broad range of research into the nature of human embryonic stem cells that simply hasn't been able to be carried out on a wide scale due to federal funding restrictions."

An exciting aspect of the funding mechanism, he says, is that it has drawn into the field a broad spectrum of top medical scientists who traditionally have not conducted research with human embryonic stem cells, in part due to the federal funding restrictions.

"These are leading neuroscientists and cell and developmental biologists who bring fresh perspectives and backgrounds to the field and will help determine the potential of embryonic stem cells both for understanding and treating cancers and many other diseases and for developing cell-based therapies."

Notably, the funding awards, known as Scientific Excellence through Exploration and Development (SEED) grants, were designed to spark novel ideas and lead to investigations that could yield preliminary data or proof-of-principle results. They provide funding for two years. Preliminary findings could then be extended to full-scale investigations.

"CIRM has been very smart in its grant-making strategy," says Kriegstein. "The training grants issued last year have allowed universities to lay the groundwork for preparing a generation of stem cell scientists, not only in research but in the ethics of the science. The SEED grants have produced clever ideas. In the spring, CIRM will issue more substantial and comprehensive research grants, and next fall they are scheduled to issue funds for facilities needed for carrying out human embryonic stem cell research in nonfederally funded lab space. This is a wise course of action."

The UCSF SEED grant recipients are:

  • Dr. Robert Blelloch, urologist
  • Dr. Linda Giudice, chair of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences
  • Su Guo, UCSF assistant professor of biopharmaceutical sciences
  • Dr. Heike Daldrup-Link, radiologist
  • Miguel Ramalho-Santos, UCSF scholar
  • Thea Tlsty, UCSF professor of pathology
  • Valerie Weaver, UCSF associate professor of surgery
  • Dr. Holger Willenbring, surgeon

The UCSF faculty at the UCSF-affiliated J. David Gladstone Institutes are:

  • Dr. Warner Green, director of the Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology
  • Dr. Eric Verdin, senior investigator, Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology
  • Fen-Biao Gao, associate investigator, Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease

UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.

The UCSF-affiliated J. David Gladstone Institutes is dedicated to the health and welfare of humankind through research into the causes and prevention of some of the world's most devastating diseases.

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