UCSD forms stem cell collaboration with major Australian centers

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego are joining forces with colleagues from Australia's Monash University and the Australian Stem Cell Centre to create a powerful new international collaboration in stem cell research. The collaboration was announced Monday, April 10 at the BIO 2006 conference in Chicago by Premier Steve Bracks and Minister for Innovation John Brumby of the state of Victoria, Australia.

"This historic initiative will cement Victoria as a global leader in stem cell research and allow our leading stem cell researchers to work alongside their Californian counterparts," said Bracks. "California is fast becoming the hub of stem cell research in the northern hemisphere and the memorandum of understanding between the UCSD and Australian Stem Cell Centre will result in two of the world's leading centres working together on future projects and discoveries."

"UC San Diego is committed to innovation, interdisciplinary scholarship and international outreach," said UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. "Through this agreement we will also strengthen the network of collaboration we are building throughout the Pacific Rim. This network will fuel the intellectual and economic engine that is driving California's steady rise as a world leader in science and technology."

"This collaboration is a potent initiative that will leverage the expertise of some of the most talented and experienced scientists in the field of regenerative medicine," said Brumby. "This collaboration will contribute toward developing the next generation of science leaders in both California and Victoria, and we are confident that, in time, new collaborations with Europe and Asia will emerge."

The collaboration will bring together more than 300 leading scientists, research trainees and staff in the regenerative medicine and stem cell science fields, and will provide an important springboard for expanded research collaborations between Victoria and California.

Under the initiative the institutions will organize scientist exchanges, host joint workshops, develop joint grant applications, share equipment and materials, and establish joint clinical trials and commercial developments.

"The scientific and academic bonds we are developing with Monash University and the Australian Stem Cell Centre will create tremendous opportunities for our faculty and our students," said UCSD Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Edward Holmes, who represented UCSD at the BIO 2006 press conference. "Advances in medical research depend increasingly upon multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations. We look forward to building stronger bridges connecting our colleagues regionally, nationally and internationally with the common goal of improving the prevention and treatment of disease."

Professor Edward Byrne, Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences Dean at Monash University, said the collaboration would provide a critical mass of stem cell researchers with a size and reputation to rival similar groups around the world.

"This is a fantastic development that will underpin some really great research in the years ahead," he said. "Research achievements in embryonic stem cell science at Monash and the Australian Stem Cell Centre will combine well with the research excellence in adult neural and cardiovascular medicine at UCSD. Already Professor Alan Trounson from Monash and Dr. Larry Goldstein, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator from UCSD, are working together on a major grant application to develop tools for human embryonic stem cell research."

Proposed areas of co-operation include work on basic human embryonic stem cell biology, neurological disorders, treating blood disease and transplant tolerance, cardiac regenerative medicine, and the repair of lung disease and diabetes through pancreatic regeneration.

In 2004, California voters passed the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative (Proposition 71) which led to the formation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The initiative allocated $3 billion in state funds to be managed by CIRM to support stem cell research in California.

UCSD recently joined with the Burnham Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and The Scripps Research Institute to announce their commitment to form the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, which will bring pre-eminent scientists from each of these world-class research institutions together to conduct stem cell research.

In addition, UCSD has developed strong ties with the National University of Singapore and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), which has led to the recent launch of six collaborative research projects in the areas of host-pathogen interactions, cancer, stem cell biology and developmental biology. UCSD also has begun a collaboration with the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, to foster education, training and research collaborations of mutual interest in areas of importance to both entities.

The State of Victoria has made a major commitment to make the state one of the top five global biotechnology centers by 2010. Over the past six years, Victoria has invested $1.6 billion into building innovation capabilities, funding vital research and developing infrastructure in the life sciences. R&D spending in the state increased 29% from 2004 to 2005. As part of this announcement, Minister Bumbry also announced $35 million in funding to establish an Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute based at Monash University.

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