UCSD Joins Stem Cell Coalition

UCSD has agreed to join further discussions on a collaborative effort with three major institutions to build a stem cell research facility on university land.

After a year of planning, the project will bring UCSD, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Scripps Research Institute together to form the nonprofit San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.

The consortium will unite the four biotech heavyweights that would otherwise compete for the $3 billion in stem cell research funds created by Proposition 71, approved by voters in November 2004.

“Where you get the synergy is that the other institutions bring great excellence in areas where additional strength is helpful,” said UCSD biology professor Larry Goldstein, who penned the ballot measure. “You want the most diverse scientific input you can get.”

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox unveiled the plans to the UC Board of Regents, which reviewed funding conditions for the building of the facility. UCSD expects to secure money for the project from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state agency created by Proposition 71.

Richard Murphy, president and CEO of the Salk Institute, stated in an e-mail that although there are nuances, which he did not specify to the operation and roles in his organization that require a more in-depth discussion, he is confident that the details will be worked out.

Although the site for the facility has not been finalized, UCSD is one of the main contenders, Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications Stacie Spector stated in an e-mail. The selection will be based on several factors, including required parking space, the size of the structure utilities and future development.

Under one roof, the consortium would create an efficient process of stem cell research, Goldstein said.

“The availability of the facility will encourage good scientists from each institution, many of whom are not now stem-cell scientists, to enter into stem-cell research,” Murphy stated. “When this occurs, unexpected collaborations will form and there will be an exchange of ideas and expertise that will lead to novel research projects.”

As part of an accord, to which all four institutions have agreed, the consortium will request grants from CIRM as one organization and not as individual institutions, Murphy stated.

The head members of all organizations involved in the consortium, including UCSD Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences Edward W. Holmes, are part of the 29-member committee that oversees the distribution of grants.

However, the men involved in the consortium are banned from voting on the group’s grant requests.

Readers can contact Agustina Ugelstad at [email protected].