USC researchers working at the Keck School of Medicine and its affiliate Childrens Hospital Los Angeles have received $8 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to support researchers early in their careers.
The grants received formal approval Aug. 13 from the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the 29-member governing board of the institute.
The New Faculty II Awards allocation is the second round of institute funding to support M.D. and Ph.D. scientists who are at critical early stages of establishing careers in stem cell research.
Investigators funded by these grants receive salary and research support for five years, creating a stable environment for building innovative research programs at a point in their careers when funding can be difficult to obtain.
“These prestigious awards to our faculty members will accelerate the pace of these young scientists’ highly innovative and creative research programs in basic stem cell biology and tissue engineering,” said Martin Pera, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.
The three Keck School of Medicine faculty members working at the USC Health Sciences Campus and at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles who received New Faculty II Awards are:
� Gage Crump, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, who received a $2.3 million award aimed at developing cell-based therapies that lead to better healing of traumatic head injuries.
� Qilong Ying, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School, who received a $2.4 million award for his studies of an important biochemical pathway that influences embryonic stem cell behavior.
� Tracy Grikscheit, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, who received a $3.2 million award to investigate a new approach toward building intestinal tissue to correct a devastating condition called Short Bowel Syndrome, seen primarily in premature babies.
“These studies will enable efforts to scale up production of specialized cells like nerves and muscle from stem cell cultures, for use in future research and therapy,” said Pera, also a professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School. “They will also support genetic studies of how bones in the head and neck are formed in the embryo and how they might be stimulated to regenerate in the adult, work that will one day aid in reconstruction after traumatic head injuries. Dr. Grikscheit’s tissue engineered bowel has the potential to overcome the many limitations of current transplantation surgery for Short Bowel Syndrome.”
This second round of New Faculty Awards builds on the 22 grants given out in December 2007. In each case, funded researchers could work with any type of stem cell including adult or embryonic, animal or human.
“We expect these awards to play a significant role in changing the career trajectory of funded researchers, encouraging talented young investigators to pursue careers in stem cell research,” said Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute. “I’m pleased that great research has the opportunity for funding. We now have a very high caliber of new faculty with a total of 45 awards from two independent RFA rounds.”
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine received 55 applications from 32 institutions. Each institution could recommend up to five faculty members minus the number that received New Faculty I awards.
This second round of New Faculty Awards differs slightly from the first round in the focus on recruiting promising new physician-researchers to the field of stem cell research and in requiring funded scientists to name mentors who will guide them toward establishing successful, productive careers in stem cell research.
The institute was established when voters passed Proposition 71 in 2004 to borrow and spend $3 billion over 10 years to support stem cell research. To date, USC faculty members working at the two main campuses and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles have secured $60 million in funding, ranking third in California Institute funding received behind Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco.
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