One of the most amazing parts of working at the stem cell agency is being part of an organization that is helping chart a whole new approach to treating disease and is breaking new ground in the ways it does that. Yesterday’s Board meeting was a perfect example.
Our governing Board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), voted to approve $40 million in funding to create a new Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics. It’s a program that will bring together the fields of genomics and stem cell research. The goal is to use genetic analysis to better understand what happens in a particular disease and to come up with new ways to treat it, ways that can potentially be tailored to meet the needs of individual patients.
In a news release announcing the funding our President, Alan Trounson Ph.D., said;
“This Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics shows why we are considered one of the global leaders in stem cell research. Bringing together this team, to do this kind of work means we will be better able to understand how stem cells change as they grow and become different kinds of cells. That deeper knowledge, that you can only get through a genomic analysis of the cells, will help us develop better ways of using these cells to come up with new treatments for deadly diseases.”
We were understandably excited by the news. So too were the members of the winning consortium headed by Stanford but including researchers from the Salk Institute, UC San Diego, Scripps, the J. Craig Venter Institute, Illumina and UC Santa Cruz. Reporters from newspapers, radio, TV and online news outlets around the state seemed to also appreciate the significance of the award.
The story was carried in outlets from the Sacramento Bee and San Francisco Chronicle to the San Diego Union Tribune. ABC7 TV in San Francisco covered the meeting and NPR stations around the state also aired pieces about it. It even caught the interest of the sometimes-jaded scientific business press.
The money we use to fund this research comes from the people of California, thanks to Proposition 71, so it’s important that they know how we are spending their money. This round of stories showed them it’s being used in ways that could one day help change the face of medicine.
On a lighter note the Board meeting also welcome two new members, Lauren Miller as the Patient Advocate for Alzheimer’s disease, and Joe Panetta as the representative for the biotech industry. It was a great meeting for them to make their debut.