This summer was one of transition for the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. Peter Donovan, our longtime director, stepped down to focus on his research here at UC Irvine and I was appointed the center’s interim director. I am excited by the opportunities I inherit as Peter did such a great job in bringing in great talent and expanding the scope of the stem cell research center. Currently, the fourth floor of our home, Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute, is being built out to provide more laboratory and meeting spaces to accommodate our ongoing growth. This is possible because of the contributions of our many supporters, starting with Sue and Bill Gross and all of you who participated in this generous gift. Mark your calendars for Spring 2014, when our fabulous new fourth-floor space opens. There will be more on this soon. For now, we hope you enjoy reading about the achievements of our research scientists in this issue. And, please spread the word of the groundbreaking research happening at Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center to your colleagues and friends. Our doors are open for you and your friends. – Sidney Golub, interim director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center
Seiler/Keirstead lab receives $4.3 million CIRM grant Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center project scientist Magdalene J. Seiler, pictured above, and co-principal investigator Hans Keirstead have received a $4.3 million “early translation” award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to develop a method of using human embryonic stem cells to create sheets of retinal cells – the kind of cells found in the back of the eye that are damaged by both age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa – and to use these sheets to repair the damage. Currently available treatments may only slow further progression and rarely restore or improve vision for patients suffering from blinding diseases such as dry age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. These conditions need both new photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium. The researchers believe this project will ultimately help to restore vision in patients suffering from retinal diseases. To read more, click here.
Zhao granted funds for breast cancer research — Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center researcher Weian Zhao has received a grant of $567,373 to develop new treatments to cure metastatic breast cancer. Zhao will use the funds, awarded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, to create bioengineered mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs. These stem cells are currently used in experiments to treat a variety of diseases and they produce very few side effects. Zhao's study is the first of its kind aimed at developing more effective treatments with MSCs targeting metastatic breast cancers that spread to the lungs. To read more, click here.
Marking Progress on International Stem Cell Awareness Day — When the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center celebrated its first Stem Cell Awareness Day in 2008, UC Irvine was just weeks away from breaking ground on what became the first major stem cell center in Southern California and the state’s first such facility built from the ground up and designed specifically for stem cell research. Five years later, on International Stem Cell Awareness Day 2013, October 2, scientific posters lined corridors of Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute, reflecting progress in the quest to develop game-changing treatments for many of life’s most challenging medical conditions. Inside Sue & Bill Gross Hall, scientists are making headway on stem cell applications that range from diagnosing and treating cancer to repairing damage caused by a stroke or traumatic injury to restoring vision loss due to retinal disease and much more. International Stem Cell Awareness Day is an opportunity to share exciting advances that your gifts have helped make possible. “If we compare our progress to drug discovery, which can take 12 to 15 years for a single drug, we are extremely proud that the center has already contributed to important human clinical trials involving stem cells,” said Sidney Golub, interim director of the center. “Several scientists have demonstrated proof of clinical concepts and are closing in on opportunities for human clinical trials. We are fortunate to be part of a community that understands and supports stem cell research.” UC Irvine staff, patient groups and community members who stopped by the center for the annual event also had the opportunity to tour labs and meet the scientists. To read more, click here.
Stem Cell Center sponsors research summit — Researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers and service providers came together to discuss how Orange County and California can help shape the future of regenerative medicine at the first Orange County Summit on Regenerative Medicine. More than 130 guests attended the event, which was co-hosted by the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center and OCTANe, an organization that connects people and ideas with capital and resources to fuel technology growth in Orange County. As home to the research behind the first FDA-approved human clinical trials for embryonic stem cell and neural progenitor cell-based therapies to treat spinal cord injury, the stem cell research center provided the ideal backdrop for a conversation about Orange County’s regenerative medicine industry. Keynote speakers at the event included Dr. Ellen Feigal, senior vice president for research and development at CIRM and regenerative medicine authority; Sidney Golub, interim director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center; and Hans Keirstead, professor of anatomy & neurobiology at UC Irvine who is featured in the photo above. Technical presentations were made by regenerative medicine experts involved in innovative stem cell research at Sue & Bill Gross Hall.
Matthew Inlay joins the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center — Straight from serving a post-doctoral fellowship in the world-renowned Irving Weissman lab at Stanford University, Matthew Inlay joins the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine as an assistant professor of molecular biology & biochemistry. His research focus is on understanding how the blood system arises in embryonic development, and particularly how blood-forming stem cells originate. Information from his research may one day lead to cures for blood diseases and cancers. Learn more about Matthew here.
In a recent issue of Clinical Investigation – a peer-reviewed, monthly publication that covers the methodology, progress and outcomes of clinical trials, from Phase 1 trials through to post-marketing studies and pharmacoeconomic research, Dr. Henry Klassen, an associate professor of ophthalmology in the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, contributed an invited editorial. His paper addresses the hopes for clinical trials under way for a range of different stem cell types being transplanted to the retina of patients with a variety of disease phenotypes, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and the atrophic form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Klassen’s own investigation into the use of retinal progenitor cells to treat RP is on course to enter human clinical trials, perhaps as early as late next year.
Friday, Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. Stem Cell Seminar Series “Ethical, legal, and social implications of new biomedical technologies” Hank Greeley, JD, from Stanford University Tamkin Hall, room F-114
Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. Stem Cell Seminar Series “Overcoming barriers for translation of stem cell research” Sally Temple, PhD, from Albany Medical College Tamkin Hall, room F-114