San Diego stem cell community gets a boost from CIRM

The North County Times in had a nice story today about the effect of CIRM funding in the San Diego area. Bradley Fikes wrote:

In San Diego County, one of the country’s top three centers of biomedicine, researchers say CIRM has greatly boosted stem cell science’s profile and magnitude. That commitment is producing advances that will translate into patient health and an economic boost for the local life sciences industry, they say.

It goes on to discuss the new Sanford Consortium building that will open next month. The building received $43 million from CIRM, which the consortium used to leverage additional money to building the $115 million project that pulls together giants of the stem cell field from UCSD, Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. In addition to pulling great minds into one space, the building will contain research facilities that can be shared by member institutions.

As with all of the CIRM-funded buildings. The goal isn’t just to build fancy space. The goal is to speed research by pooling ideas, encouraging collaboration, and providing much needed equipment in convenient settings to speed research along.

The story goes on to say:

Over at the Salk Institute, veteran researcher Inder Verma says the state program catalyzed the institute’s involvement with stem cell research. The program paid for a shared laboratory at Salk devoted to stem cell technology. This “stem cell core facility” provides training and equipment for scientists interested in working with stem cells.

The core facility was especially important for those workingwith human embryonic stem cells, because of federal restrictions imposed by President Bush in 2001 on the use of its money for that research, Verma said. President Barack Obama relaxed those restrictions after taking office in 2009. The facility also works with artificial embryonic stem cells called IPS, or induced pluripotent stem cells, which are typically grown from skin cells called fibroblasts.

“Many people at the Salk wanted to work in this area, but they didn’t know where to start, because they didn’t have access to these cells, they didn’t have access to the technology,” Verma said. “But once we had a core facility, suddenly, a large number of labs, 16 to 17, began to do work in the area of regenerative medicine. My lab had almost no one working on stem cells, and now, there are six to eight people working on stem cells.”

San Diego is one of three major research centers in California where stem cell companies and academic labs have flourished. The other two are in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This interactive map shows where CIRM’s funding has gone.


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