UCLA Stem Cell Institute receives $3.75-million training grant from state

09/13/05

Grant is largest of 16 awarded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The UCLA Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine (ISCBM) today received a three-year, $3.75-million grant the largest awarded from the state to train young scientists to conduct stem cell research.

UCLA's stem cell institute received the full amount of funding requested from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), formed to oversee and fund stem cell research after voters in November overwhelming passed Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The state's Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC), at a meeting in Sacramento, voted on and awarded the first stem cell research grants today.

UCLA stem cell institute officials said the money will help prepare the next generation of scientists who will conduct this leading-edge research.

"The aim of our program is to train basic scientists, engineers and physicians to become leaders in stem cell research," said Dr. Owen Witte, director of the UCLA stem cell institute, a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "A distinctive feature of UCLA's program is that these scientists will be trained from a multidisciplinary perspective."

The ISCBM will train 16 pre-doctoral, post-doctoral and clinical research scholars. Each will be offered various training options, including working with faculty who are leaders in cell and molecular biology, gene medicine, cell-based therapies and organ transplantation. Witte said the training program also will accommodate those interested in the social, legal, ethical or policy aspects of stem cell research.

"This will benefit the people of California by providing high-quality training in the scientific, clinical, social and ethical aspects of stem cell research to the scientists and clinicians who will be developing the future therapies in this rapidly emerging field," said Judith C. Gasson, ISCBM co-director and the director of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center.

The ISCBM training grant application received high marks, winning 94 out of a possible 100 points. The institute's research focus includes HIV/AIDS, cancer, neurological disorders, bone and cardiac disease as well as metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Pending lawsuits could postpone the funding process, although California officials have indicated that the state will provide CIRM with the funding to cover the first round of grants.

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