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Broad Foundation Announces Winners of $1 Million Fund for Innovative Stem Cell Research
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 10, 2017—Eight teams of scientists at UCLA, UC San Francisco and USC have been awarded a total of $1 million for their work on innovative stem cell research projects that could shed light on heart disease, kidney failure, neurological diseases and other conditions, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced today. Each team will receive a $125,000 one-year grant.
Recognizing the importance advancing scientific and medical research, Eli and Edythe Broad created three California stem cell research centers at UCLA, UCSF and USC, with grants totaling more than $80 million. This most recent $1 million grant comes on the 10th anniversary of the centers.
“Edye and I have been impressed by the work of scientists at the Broad stem cell centers,” said Eli Broad. “We hope that, with these grants and others, they can continue to transform how some of the most devastating diseases are understood and treated.”
UCLA, UCSF and USC each submitted six proposals for consideration. Two active investigators from each school evaluated and scored proposals from the universities with which they are not affiliated, looking for projects that were innovative, achievable and likely to have a significant impact on clinical practice. The eight projects with the highest scores, on average, were selected to receive grants.
Since their founding, the three stem cell centers have received more than $520 million in grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the agency created to fund stem cell research after voters passed a $3 billion bond measure supporting the innovative branch of science.
Researchers affiliated with the centers have cured the genetic immune deficiency disease known as Bubble Baby disease and brought to clinical trial treatments for sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, colorectal cancer and other diseases.
Funded Projects in Detail
The Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA
Despite two decades of advances in treating heart failure, the life expectancy for patients with that diagnosis is only five years—shorter than many cancers. Associate Professor Reza Ardehali will explore whether neonatal plasma can prevent heart failure by helping the heart heal, rather than form scars, in the immediate aftermath of a heart attack.
Forty years have passed since the Food and Drug Administration last approved a therapy for acute myeloid leukemia. Professor John Chute and Adjunct Assistant Professor Martina Roos will examine potential new therapies that target leukemia cancer stem cells, which can initiate the disease and play a role in its drug-resistance and recurrence.
The rare genetic disorder X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) can make it impossible for patients to fend off infections, and existing treatments have severe side effects. Professor Donald B. Kohn and Assistant Professor Caroline Y. Kuo propose a stem cell transplant using the patient’s own cells and precisely correcting the genetic defect that causes XLA.
Asthma, autoimmune disease, depression and Parkinson’s are among the many diseases that vary in severity, prevalence and age of onset according to a person’s sex. Professor Kathrin Plath will develop a tool to explore how the X and Y chromosomes impact gene expression in otherwise identical genetic backgrounds.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF
The human genome creates tens of thousands of what are called long noncoding RNA molecules, a small fraction of may play a role in psychiatric diseases and cancer. Associate Professor Daniel A. Lim and Professor Jonathan Weissman hope to make it possible to detect which long noncoding RNAs contribute to the development of neurological disease, creating a path to study possible treatments.
Although scientists know that particular disorders are correlated with inherited mutations or deletions of DNA, they do not always know why the DNA change causes a certain disease. Assistant Professor Tomasz Nowakowski will explore ways to trace the relationship between mutated or deleted DNA and the resulting diseased cells. He will specifically examine DiGeorge syndrome, a congenital birth defect that leads to neurological and psychiatric problems.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC
Induced pluripotent stem cells give scientists the ability to study disease in a personalized way—scientists can replicate an individual’s disease, using that person’s own stem cells, in a petri dish. Professors Scott E. Fraser and Justin Ichida will create a less expensive, higher efficiency and scalable method to label the cells involved in these personalized models, making it easier to study disease.
One of the important roles of stem cells is to repair injuries in organs. However, there is little understanding of how that repair happens in the kidney. Given that kidney disease is affecting more people globally, Andrew P. McMahon, director of USC’s Broad Stem Cell Center, will research the ways in which the kidney repairs itself, laying the groundwork for future research in treating kidney disease.
The Broad Foundations, which include The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation, were established to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts. They have assets of $3 billion. For more information, visit www.broadfoundation.org.