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UCSB Receives $3.2 Million in Stem Cell Research Funding

The state grant will support projects and the development of a state-of-the-art facility.

UC Santa Barbara will receive $3.2 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in support of the development of a state-of-the-art facility in the newly established Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, CIRM announced Wednesday.

Research in the new center addresses challenging problems in stem cell biology related to the molecular mechanisms of pluripotency (the ability of the stem cell to become any other type of cell in the body), self renewal and differentiation, using both human embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells and stem cells in simpler organisms. Bioengineering research in the center will investigate novel methods for stem cell growth, differentiation, sorting and delivery, via interdisciplinary application of novel technologies in biomaterials, nanosystems, microprocessing and systems biology.

The long-term goal of the center is the development of stem cell-based therapeutics for a range of human diseases.

“The CIRM special project will provide crucial funding that will greatly stimulate growth of stem cell research on the UCSB campus,” said Dennis Clegg, chairman of the Department of Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology. “It will facilitate new, interdisciplinary research projects that would otherwise be impossible due to federal restrictions and lack of suitable space."

The UCSB project will encompass renovation of 10,337 square feet in the building called Biological Sciences 2, a seven-story building in the biology corridor of campus.

“With this CIRM grant, we will build a state-of-the-art laboratory facility as the centerpiece of the new Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering,” said Michael Witherell, vice chancellor for research. “The completion of this project will be a very important milestone for stem cell research at UCSB. We are ready to go."

The mission of the center is to foster interdisciplinary stem cell research and teaching; to support collaboration and exchange of ideas among a wide range of disciplines; and to provide a platform for growth in the emerging field of regenerative medicine.

Renovation on parts of three floors will accommodate the following three program elements: space for collaborative work with James Thomson, a pre-eminent stem cell scientist and adjunct professor at UCSB; space for two new distinguished faculty members who will hold the Ruth Garland Chair, in the area of molecular mechanisms, and the Mellichamp Chair, in the area of bioengineering; renovation of space for core facilities. The core facilities will be used by 25 UCSB researchers with ongoing stem cell projects, as well as newly recruited faculty members.

CIRM was established in 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. It called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities and other vital research opportunities.

The CIRM governing board has approved 156 research grants totaling almost $260 million, making CIRM the largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research in the world. Click here for more information.

The renovation project has a total budget of $6.3 million. Click here for more information.

Kristen Johnson is the UCSB Public Affairs office manager.

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