March 2013

Peter's posits

Peter Donovan

Last fall, we received exciting news that Sue and Bill Gross had challenged us with raising $4 million to complete the fourth floor of Gross Hall. If we were able to do that, they were prepared to commit a matching $4 million. I’m pleased to say we met their challenge. It will result in the creation of new research space and more researchers in the trenches battling against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.  As a result of Sue and Bill’s challenge and the publicity surrounding it, we reached out to a whole new set of donors who have come forward to support the center. In the long run, their support will have long-lasting consequences for the center. With science funding in such peril, the support of our local community means a lot – both practically and morally. In the meantime, I’m pleased to report that we received news of successes on other fronts: funding of a new grant designed to support the training of the next generation of young scientists. For this new program, we were fortunate to engage local pharmaceutical and biotech companies who agreed to help train these young people in ways of doing science and business that they would not usually encounter at a university. It means our students will have an edge that others do not and make them more competitive in the job market. And we, in turn, can better train people for the companies that are a key component of the economic vitality of our community. We are so fortunate to be part of a community that has such strength in the business of biotechnology. As we go forward, we see our role as a public university to strengthen those ties – it will be a win-win for everyone.

– Peter Donovan, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center

Research News

Jonathan Lakey

UC Irvine stem cell researcher to attend Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference — Jonathan Lakey, a researcher in the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, will be among the presenters at the Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference, which will focus on fundamental shifts in regenerative medicine. Lakey will present on Friday, April 12, his breakthroughs and the promise of developing new stem-cell methods for transplanting insulin-producing islet cells into patients with diabetes. The three-day conference will feature high-profile researchers, executives and journalists involved with stem cell research, and will culminate with a VIP tour of the Vatican a scheduled audience with Pope Francis. “This is a very important opportunity to open other’s eyes to the importance of stem cell research and its benefits,” Lakey says. For more on the conference, click here.


Making a Difference

Frances Saldaña

HD advocate Frances Saldaña starts support group — Frances Saldaña has lost family members to Huntington’s disease, and she’s dedicated herself to ongoing effort to find a treatment or cure for the disease. A patient advocate at the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, Saldaña has started HD CARE to support HD research and clinical care at UC Irvine, which includes work by stem cell researcher Leslie Thompson. To kick off HD CARE, Saldaña and her colleagues are hosting “Sound by the Sea,” an April 20 wine and jazz event at the Hotel Laguna. Please e-mail to RSVP, or go to HD CARE’s website for more information.

Save the Date

Gross Hall to host stem cell art exhibit — Both cells and cels can become fine art. But, only those cells with the potential to treat disease will be on display at “Stem Cells Offer Hope,” an art exhibit and reception hosted April 25 by the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. More than 30 art-quality photographic prints will presented, depicting stem cell types with the potential to treat everything from spinal cord injury to diabetes to blindness. Scientists will be on hand to explain both their art and research. Giclee prints of the cell images can be purchased at the event.  “Stem Cells Offer Hope” takes place from 5-7 p.m. in Gross Hall. Tickets are $35 in advance; $45 at the door. For more information, call 949-824-1677, or go to the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center website.

Podcast central

Hans Keirstead

Hans Keirstead talks about the future of medicine — On Feb. 28, Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center researcher Hans Keirstead lectured to a sold-out Newport Beach Public Library audience about the ongoing advances and promise of stem cell research and cures. His talk was captured on a podcast, which can be accessed here.

Funding News


Grant funding to support eye disease research — The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute has been awarded a $3 million grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for fellowships and instruments that advance research to prevent blindness caused by such diseases as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Part of this funding will support research, such as that by Dr. Henry Klassen, a Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Center Researcher, whose work has shown that stem cells can repair damaged retinal cells in retinitis pigmentosa, the most common form of inherited retinal degeneration. If proven effective in humans, this treatment could change what it means to be diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, a disease that affects the vision of 1 in 27 Americans. For more on Dr. Klassen, click here.

handy links

Learn more about stem cell basics here.
Learn more about stem cell research here.
Learn more about patient groups that support stem cell research and how you can get involved here.
Learn more about stem cell research in California here. Learn more about donating here.


coming events

Friday, April 5
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“U.S. science policy as applied to stem cells”
With Sidney Golub, M.D.

Saturday, April 6
WALK MS 2013

Join or support Malcolm Casale, a scientist in Leslie Thompson’s research group
Check in 7:30 a.m.
UC Irvine, Campus Drive near the Social Sciences buildings
Click here for more

Friday, April 12
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

4 p.m., Med Ed Building, room F-114
“Pre-implantation genetic testing of human embryos: The science, the medicine, the bioethics”
With Marcus Hughes, M.D., Ph.D.

Friday, April 19
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“Stem cell ‘exceptionalism’”
With Steven Peckman

Thursday, April 25
“Stem Cells Offer Hope”
Art exhibit and reception
5-7 p.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
Tickets are $35 in advance; $45 at the door.
Info: 949-824-1677, or click here

Friday, May 3
Topics in Stem Cell lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“Engineering tools for stem cell studies”
With Michelle Khine, Ph.D.

Friday, May 10
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“A stem cell-mediated therapy for glioma”
With Karen Aboody, M.D.

Friday, May 17
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“An update on CIRM’s accomplishments & future directions”
With Natalie DeWitt, Ph.D.

Friday, May 31
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“Stem cell transplantation for lysosomal storage diseases”
With Phil Schwartz. Ph.D.

Friday, June 7
Topics in Stem Cells lecture

11 a.m., Gross Hall, 4th floor
“Stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s disease: Overcoming translational issues and new models”
With Frank LaFerla, Ph.D.

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