California’s Stem Cell Agency Announces International Collaborations and $69 Million in New Research Funding

San Francisco, CA – California’s stem cell agency - the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) - announced its first ever collaboratively funded research projects with China and the federal government of Australia, a new project with Germany, plus $69 million for research to help develop therapies for 15 diseases in its latest round of funding.

These awards mark the third round of funding for the stem cell agency’s Early Translational Awards program, which supports projects that are in the initial stages of identifying drugs or cell types that could become disease therapies.

“Our collaborative funding program brings together the best researchers around the world,” said Alan Trounson, Ph.D., CIRM President. “These partnerships are critical in engaging the best minds and enabling the elite scientists of the world to work together to drive research towards the clinic for patients. Our 25 collaborative projects with nine funding partners have so far leveraged more than $65 million in funding for stem cell research projects worldwide. The sun now never sets on the CIRM collaborative projects and scientists are stretching out to one another across the globe to achieve discoveries that will be game changing in medicine.”

This is the first time CIRM has collaborated with the Australian federal government; the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia is committing almost $1.8 million to the Australian arm of a project on multiple sclerosis with a team at the University of California, Irvine. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology has committed roughly $850,000 in collaboration with a team at UCSF to study liver failure. This is the stem cell agency’s first joint effort with scientists in China, which is home to a fast-growing stem cell research community. The other international collaboration is a project with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany, which is investing around $1.7 million in a partnership with Stanford University to study heart disease.

“With these new awards, the agency now has 52 projects in 33 diseases at varying stages of working toward clinical trials,” said Jonathan Thomas, J.D., Ph.D., CIRM governing board chair. “Californians should take pride in being at the center of this world wide research leading toward new cures. These projects represent the best of California stem cell science and the best international experts who, together, will bring new therapies for patients.”

The disease focus of the new awards includes brain tumors, muscle atrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and incontinence, among others.

Leeza Gibbons represents Alzheimer’s disease on the agency’s 29-member Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC). “As patient advocates, we represent all voters and all life-limiting conditions and diseases, but my heart leaps when I see innovative science utilizing stem cells to treat or cure Alzheimer's and other memory-robbing conditions,” she said. “It is a true honor to be at the ground level of change as a member of the ICOC.”

The Early Translation (ET) Awards have begun to develop a track record for advancing basic discoveries to the point where a potential therapy has been identified. Two recipients of the first ET round later beat back stiff competition to get one of CIRM’s Disease Team 2 Planning grants. This grant was to help them assemble the teams needed to develop a plan to get the therapy candidate into clinic trials. One showed that a type of stem cell can be effective in delivering therapeutic molecules and will be tested with a treatment for Huntington’s disease, and one offers a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Early Translational III Awards

Number Investigator Institution Funds Committed
TR3-05501 Helen Blau Stanford University 1,825,920
TR3-05641 Stephen Forman City of Hope National Medical Center 5,217,004
TR3-05542 Holger Willenbring University of California, San Francisco 1,544,170
TR3-05568 Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte The Salk Institute for Biological Studies 2,340,000
TR3-05577 Lawrence Goldstein University of California, San Diego 1,857,600
TR3-05669 David Schubert The Salk Institute for Biological Studies 1,673,757
TR3-05628 Mark Tuszynski University of California, San Diego 4,699,569
TR3-05559 Yang Xu University of California, San Diego 1,857,600
TR3-05709 Kyriacos Athanasiou University of California, Davis 1,735,703
TR3-05556 Joseph Wu Stanford University 4,766,231
TR3-05603 Thomas Lane University of California, Irvine 4,799,814
TR3-05687 Eric David Adler University of California, San Diego 1,701,575
TR3-05569 Renee Reijo Pera Stanford University 5,279,607
TR3-05476 Philip Schwartz Children's Hospital of Orange County 5,509,978
TR3-05535 Morton Cowan University of California, San Francisco 3,931,662
TR3-05617 Peter Schultz Scripps Research Institute 4,327,175
TR3-05488 Toshio Miki University of Southern California 1,750,375
TR3-05676 Eugene Wei-Ming Yeo University of California, San Diego 1,654,830
TR3-05593 Deepak Srivastava The J. David Gladstone Institutes 6,319,110
TR3-05606 Arnold Kriegstein University of California, San Francisco 1,623,251
TR3-05626 Walter Boyd University of California, Davis 4,939,140
Total     69,354,071

About CIRM: CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research opportunities. A list of grants and loans awarded to date may be seen here: http://www.cirm.ca.gov/for-researchers/researchfunding.

© 2013 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine