17 May Stem cell and regenerative medicine center to aid education and commerce
Madison, Wis. – The coordination of the companion disciplines of stem cell research and regenerative medicine will be the focus of a new interdisciplinary center being established at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but it is also being developed with the biotechnology industry in mind.
The center initially will operate in “virtual” space, and will serve as a central entity under which the UW-Madison campus can strengthen its stem cell research, training, and education programs.
“One key aspect of our mission will be in education and training,” noted cardiologist and stem cell researcher Timothy Kamp, an associate professor of medicine in the UW-Madison Department of Physiology. “Just as UW trains PhD scientists in fields such as biochemistry, which can go on to academic or industry careers, we expect that the center will likewise contribute to the training of scientists and associated professionals that will help populate the emerging biotechnology sector in this area.”
Kamp, who also is a member of the scientific team of Cellular Dynamics International, a drug-screening company founded by famed stem cell researcher Jamie Thomson, will co-direct the center along with Clive Svendsen, a UW-Madison neuroscientist and an authority on stem cells.
Svendsen said the new center would provide a bridge for all campus researchers involved in stem cell research, including embryonic and adult stem cells and cancer stem cells. There are roughly 50 UW-Madison faculty members engaged to varying degrees in stem cell research and in regenerative medicine, which is developing technologies to repair or replace defective tissues and organs.
In addition to regenerative medicine and an interdisciplinary stem cell post-doctoral training program, the center will encompass basic, pre-clinical, and clinical research in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.
The center, which will operate under the joint auspices of the UW-Madison Graduate School and the School of Medicine and Public Health, also could play a role in faculty recruitment and retention, especially as competition from other states and from Europe and Asia becomes more intense, Svendsen said.
The state of California, for example, has established the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state agency created to manage the stem cell project approved by voters as part of Proposition 71. That project gained momentum this week when the California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the litigation challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 71.
The decision effectively ends the lawsuits that have held up bond funding for CIRM, and the institute now is expected to start its next round of granting activity. That round could include $48.5 million in grants for shared laboratories and $222 million for key facilities at universities, research hospitals, and medical schools.
In all, California voters approved $3 billion for the state’s stem cell research program, and only $158 million in grants have been awarded to date.
With California now in a position to ramp up funding for stem cell research and regenerative medicine, the UW-Madison center could be helpful in the funding area. According to Kamp, the center will help develop a seed-grant program and funding for post-doctoral fellows and educational and outreach programs.
Federal granting agencies are encouraging companies and educational institutions to work collaboratively and as part of interdisciplinary teams, and UW-Madison is accommodating that approach with campus projects like the Interdisciplinary Research Center and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
“Part of our motivation is to build community,” Kamp said in an article released by the university. “We want to bring people together to empower the basic research and the clinical applications any way we can.”
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