OCT 27, 2014 12:00 AM PDT

UCI, UCLA Awarded $8 Million CIRM Funding To Launch Collaborative Stem Cell Clinic

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center and UCLA's Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research received a five-year, $8 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to establish a CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic.

The first-of-its-kind alliance will conduct clinical trials of investigational stem cell therapies and provide critical resources and expertise via the creation of a state-of-the-art infrastructure supporting clinical research. The $8 million grant was one of three awarded October 23 by the state stem cell agency as part of the CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinics Network Initiative. It was based on the partnership's "impressive and multidimensional team of experienced personnel" committed to expanding "access to patients, attracting national and international clinical trials, and accelerating future trials in the pipeline," according to the reviewers.

UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center was established, in part, through a $10 million gift from Sue and Bill Gross. For more than 40 years, its scientists and research and graduate assistants have worked to unlock the potential of stem cells in treating and curing about 70 major diseases and disorders.

"UCI has established a strong preclinical stem cell research program, and it's vital to move ahead to the clinical testing phase," said Sidney Golub, director of UCI's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. "To advance treatments in this field, we all have to work together, and that's what the UCLA-UCI Alpha Stem Cell Clinic program represents."

The initial stem cell trials supported by the clinic will be two UCLA projects using blood-forming stem cells. The first will test a stem cell-based gene therapy for patients with "bubble baby disease," also called severe combined immune deficiency, in which infants are born without an immune system. The second clinical trial will use a patient's own genetically modified blood-forming stem cells to engineer and promote an immune response to melanomas and sarcomas. Potential clinical studies at UCI, such as those being considered for retinitis pigmentosa and stroke, will also be supported by the clinic.

"This CIRM grant is an important acknowledgement of our cutting-edge research and will help us to advance the design, testing and delivery of effective and safe stem cell-based therapies," said Dr. Owen Witte, professor and director of UCLA's Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research. "The implementation of a standard of excellence in clinical research will improve healthcare and the lives of patients far beyond the longevity of individual trials."

With more than 200 members, the Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research is dedicated to the integration of scientific, academic and medical disciplines for the purpose of understanding adult and human embryonic stem cells. Established in 200, it supports innovation, excellence and the highest ethical standards in relation to stem cell research directed toward future clinical applications to treat disease.

C. Randal Mills, CIRM's president and CEO, said, "Everything we do has one simple goal, to accelerate the development of successful treatments for people in need. Stem cell therapies are a new way of treating disease. Instead of managing symptoms, cellular medicine has the power to replace or regenerate damaged tissues and organs. And so we need to explore new and innovative ways of accelerating clinical research with stem cells. That is what we hope these Alpha Stem Cell Clinics will accomplish."
About the Author
Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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