The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is awarding $40 million to a group of researchers from seven California institutions toward creating a new center of excellence focused on stem cell genomics. The Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics, according to CIRM, will focus on bridging the fields of genomics with stem cell research with the aim of using it to better understand the disease processes involved in cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health. The ultimate goal is to find safer and more effective ways of using stem cells in medical research and therapy.

CIRM’s award includes $19 million for the new center’s team to carry out independent and collaborative projects such as investigating disease mechanisms and developing new technologies to aid in that investigation. The Data Coordination and Management program, to be run by UC-Santa Cruz, will make it possible for the research to be shared with other researchers both locally and worldwide.

Stanford University and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies are the joint principal investigators for the center of excellence. Other collaborators include UC-San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute, Illumina, and the J. Craig Venter Institute.

“Bringing together this team, to do this kind of work means we will be better able to understand how stem cells change as they grow and become different kinds of cells,” said CIRM president Alan Trounson, Ph.D., in a statement. “That deeper knowledge that you can only get through a genomic analysis of the cells will help us develop better ways of using these cells to come up with new treatments for deadly diseases.” (Dr. Trounson announced he was stepping down as CIRM’s president back in October.)

CIRM’s governing board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, also approved more than $27 million in funding for the Basic Biology V awards, which are going to 27 different researchers working on projects that tackle significant, unresolved issues in human stem cell biology, including:

  • $1.1 million to Stanford neurologist Gary Steinberg, M.D., Ph.D, to study how human neural or brain nerve stem cells can help people recovering from a stroke;
  • $1.1 million to Christian Metallo, Ph.D., from UC-San Diego to understand better what nutrients are needed to make stem cells grow and function as heart cells; and
  • $624,816 to Paul Noble, M.D., director of the Lung Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, to identify the mechanisms needed for stem cells to help repair damage to lungs.

A complete list of recipients can be found here.

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