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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Their commitment to stem cell research: San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine

The California stem cell institute Wednesday awarded $271 million in grants to 12 institutes for the construction of buildings to house stem cell research.

Among the funding was a $43 million grant to the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine for the construction of a building in Torrey Pines where scientists from four major institutes will combine efforts in stem cell research.

In the proposed $115 million building to be built near the Torrey Pines Gliderport, teams of scientists from across San Diego will collaborate in efforts to unlock the regenerative mysteries of stem cells and how they can be used to address critical health issues.

The San Diego consortium, and the 11 other grant recipients, have committed to invest a total of $560 million from charitable donations and their internal reserves to construct the facilities, bringing the total statewide investment in new research space to $831 million.

"As a patient advocate, I am inspired by the amount of leverage California research institutions have contributed from their charitable donors and from their reserves," said Robert Klein, chairman of the state stem cell institute.

"Their incredible commitment underscores the promise that stem cell research holds for patients suffering from chronic disease and injury," Robert said. His son is such a patient, motivating Robert to become a champion of such research.

The San Diego consortium, which includes University of California San Diego, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Scripps Research Institute and the Salk Institute, plan to build a four-story building, with a basement, full of research equipment, on a 7½ -acre parcel at North Torrey Pines Road and Torrey Pines Scenic Drive. The land, owned by UCSD, is valued at about $15 million and is within walking distance of all four member campuses.

Scientists from all four member institutions will work there, combining expertise on stem cells as well as bioengineering, computational biology, chemistry and clinical sciences. The idea is that by sharing their resources and different expertise, the four institutes will be better equipped to bring new therapies, diagnostics and research tools to market more quickly and efficiently.

The structure the scientists envision would meet federal requirements for a green building and would contain 23,740 square feet of laboratory and support space. Labs would be built without walls separating them. There would also be a cafeteria, as well as an auditorium, to be named for the philanthropic donor, whose name has not yet been announced.

The center will be a highly visible symbol of the region's commitment to stem cell research, and a place where the taxpayers footing the bill can see what progress their money has fueled, said Dr. Edward Holmes, the consortium's president and formerly head of UCSD's medical school.

The San Diego consortium expects it needs to raise at least $72 million to complete funding for the center. And it expects to spend $40 million in faculty recruitment and other costs, bringing the total for the new San Diego Center for Regenerative Medicine to $155 million.

Investment in research infrastructure to extend California's state-of-the-art research capacity is a critical part of the strategic plan established by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The institute was created under Proposition 71, a $3 billion bond initiative approved by state voters in November 2004, to fund stem cell research. The initiative makes California the leader globally in funds dedicated to stem cell research.

Because of the ability of stem cells to evolve into the more than 200 types of cells in the body, the field is believed to hold the promise of curing diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

All the institutions receiving these major facilities grants have agreed to expedited construction schedules that will deliver nearly 800,000 square feet of facilities with researchers in the labs within two years.

"This will go a long way toward medical research that could save lives and improve them for people with chronic diseases," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement Wednesday.

Advice: Fight your disease by channeling your energy like Robert Klein.

Read another story about Robert Klein’s work.

Thanks to Terri Somers for the source story in yesterday's issue of San Diego Online.

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