San Diego area gets stem cell "Collaboratory"

Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine

Today the ninth of twelve CIRM-supported stem cell facilities in California is opening its doors. The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in La Jolla will be home to stem cell scientists from five San Diego area research centers — University of California San Diego, The Salk Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology.

As with all of the CIRM-supported facilities, the institute’s support leveraged public and private funds to build a facility that provided construction jobs and that will drive the local biotechnology industry, in addition to being a center for developing new therapies. CIRM provided $43 million to support the $127 million facility. Another $19 million came from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, with the remainder coming from public and private sources.

According to a story in the North County Times:

That construction put money into the pockets of local builders, architects and other professionals. But the real economic benefit is to come from the research the building is expected to engender, and the products local companies hope to take to market. 

The story goes on to quote Louis Coffman, consortium vice-president, talking about the way the building was designed to promote collaboration:

“In terms of collaboration, we believe that you cannot force it,” Coffman said. “You can’t make it happen. It’s sort of an emergent property of people working together. They either work together or they don’t. All we can do is create the conditions to enable it to happen.” 

A story in the San Diego Union Tribune discusses the collaborative nature of the building and quotes CIRM President Alan Trounson discussing the value of encouraging scientists to work together:

The new building has been nickhamed the “Collaboratory” for its emphasis on teamwork. The center’s interior features almost 3,000 square feet of glass so that scientists from different disciplines will regularly see one another. Laboratories are linked by informal meeting areas. And seating in the auditorium was limited to 150 in the belief that crowds bigger than that discourage people from being social.

“The design means that you can’t walk from spot A to B to C without meeting other people,” said Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), a state agency that provided $43 million in public funds for the project. “This is not a conventional building. The idea is to integrate people from various places. Instead of taking a year and a half to meet, they’ll have done so in three months.” 

That Union Tribune story includes some highlights about the scientists who will be housed in the new facility and some of the technologies San Diego stem cell scientists will have access to.

The opening of the Sanford Consortium building also kicks off the annual Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa, which includes a first-time partnering forum to bring together the investors, companies and academics who will need to work together to bring stem cell therapies to patients. We’ll have more on that forum in future blogs.

Last month the UC Berkeley stem cell facility opened, which you can read about here

-A.A.

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