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$6.4 million for stem cell labs at USC and CHLA

by Jennifer Chan

The Keck School of Medicine of USC and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles have been awarded a total of $6.4 million in Shared Research Laboratory Grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

These grants will fund dedicated laboratory space and equipment for multiple researchers and institutions to share for unrestricted stem cell research. USC’s grant also includes funding to develop an educational course in current protocols in stem cell research.

CIRM’s advisory panel strongly recommended funding for USC’s laboratory space.

“We are very pleased that our USC faculty at the Keck School and at Childrens Hospital fared well in securing these most recent grants from CIRM,” said Brian Henderson, dean of the Keck School of Medicine.

“The grants complement our hard work in developing strong programs and recruiting an outstanding team of scientists. The funding will help develop more vitally important facilities that are needed for stem cell investigation and the eventual translation of new discoveries to patient care.”

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles received $2.8 million to build a 3,000-square-foot centralized laboratory area that will be housed at the hospital’s Smith Research Tower. The area will include four tissue culture rooms with positive pressure air handling, four shared equipment rooms, storage space and an office space.

Approximately $3.6 million will go to USC’s Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM). The 1,500-square-foot research laboratory will be housed on the USC Health Sciences campus in the new Harlyne J. Norris Cancer Research Tower. The laboratory space will include seven tissue culture workstations, each with its own biosafety cabinets, incubators, microscopes and ancillary equipment.

“The grants will enable USC to provide researchers with comprehensive support through training, research materials and space for pilot and collaborative research,” said Martin Pera, director of USC’s CSCRM and professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine.

“We are excited to be recognized for our dedication in advancing stem cell research. We hope the facilities will encourage researchers, especially those new to stem cell research, to undertake pilot projects and generate preliminary data,” he continued.

News of the Shared Research Laboratory Grants comes as USC continues planning for the new Broad Institute building on the USC Health Sciences campus, which will eventually house the stem cell research center.

CIRM was established when voters passed Proposition 71 in 2004 to borrow and spend $3 billion over 10 years to support stem cell research. Including these two awards, USC and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles have received more than $17.9 million in stem cell grants from CIRM.

Earlier this year, USC and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles researchers received approximately $5.9 million from CIRM to fund scientists new to stem cell research and to support ongoing studies by scientists with a record of accomplishment in the field.

In the spring of 2006, USC, along with its partner institutions Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Caltech, received a three-year, $5.6 million stem cell training grant from CIRM to train graduate students as well as post-doctoral and clinical fellows across 27 departments at USC. That three-year grant has established an innovative training program in stem cell biology and ethics that includes mentored laboratory research, an annual retreat and courses jointly administered and co-taught by faculty of the Keck School, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Caltech.

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