The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

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    UCSD Enters Stem-Cell Research Partnership

    Four major research institutions are joining to form a
    cutting-edge San Diego Consortium on Regenerative Medicine, which will draw
    together a number of major resources in the field in an attempt to further
    develop regenerative science. UCSD, the Scripps Research Institute, the Burnham
    Institute for Medical Research and the Salk Institute will be equal partners in
    the collaboration.

    The SDCRM is working on a major facilities grant from the
    California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which was created after voters
    passed Proposition 71 in 2004. The amount of the grant will be determined at a
    meeting of CIRM’s governing board early
    next month. If the funds are granted, the facility must be finished within two

    The goal of the SDCRM is to promote collaboration between
    leading biologists, physicians, engineers, physicists, chemists, computer
    scientists and bioethicists. It will pool resources to buy state-of-the-art
    tools and instruments. In addition, the consortium will recruit and train new
    researchers in stem-cell research.

    “The consortium provides an additional catalyst for
    collaboration among the great research organizations here in San
    ,” John Reed, CEO of the Burnham Institute, said
    in an e-mail.

    According to Reed, the Burnham Institute has a long-standing
    commitment to stem-cell research dating back 11 years when it created a
    specific research division dedicated to the field and began recruiting

    “Our expertise in stem-cell research, combined with the
    talents of our partners, will ensure rapid progress toward innovative
    cell-based therapies for many debilitating and life-threatening diseases,” Reed
    said. “We have always believed that collaboration is the key to successfully
    tackling tough medical problems. Collaboration is at the core of the Burnham
    culture. We are proud and excited to be a member of the consortium that will
    lead the world in stem-cell biology and regenerative medicine.”

    Working with CIRM, the consortium will also create new
    laboratories that are safe harbors for stem-cell research free from federal restrictions.

    SDCRM will be performing medical research in the fields of
    neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology, hematology, oncology and endocrinology.

    In coordination with the consortium, the Scripps Research
    Institute has created a new Center for Regenerative Medicine, naming Jeanne F.
    Loring as its head.

    Loring, who recently conducted research at the Burnham
    Institute, said she has a clear vision for the new lab.

    “Since I have been at two of the institutes in the
    consortium, I think I have a pretty good feeling for how it will work,” Loring

    Just as SDCRM will function as a forum to bring together
    leading scientists from each of the institutions, the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Scripps
    will be an internal mechanism to unite scientists who are working on stem cells
    and create an interdisciplinary environment.

    A 1,000-square-foot space has been allocated for running
    NIH-sponsored human embryonic stem-cell laboratory courses to train future
    scientists. However, Loring said most research will occur in individual
    scientists’ laboratories.

    “The center is not so much a physical space but more of a
    group of people working together,” she said.

    According to Loring, Scripps’ Center for Regenerative
    Medicine will be important because it brings
    the institute’s strength in drug development to SDCRM. Using molecular
    biology and genomics, scientists can convert embryonic stem cells into a
    variety of different organ tissues on which to perform drug screening.

    In this way, scientists can determine drugs’ positive and
    negative side effects on different parts of the human body without actually
    performing tests on human beings.

    Loring said she is excited about SDCRM’s potential.

    “The consortium gives us breadth in a lot of different areas
    of expertise,” she said.

    Surprisingly, the construction of the new centers is not
    causing very much controversy over the use of embryonic stem cells, said Burnham
    Institute Vice President of Communications Andrea Moser. Instead, Moser said
    the main criticism involves SDCRM’s planned location, which lies adjacent to
    the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

    A meeting took place last week where community members
    discussed their concerns about how the building will impact the local

    The planned $115-million main facility, the “collaboratory,”
    will be built on 7.5 acres of UCSD land near the gliderport. Glider enthusiasts
    are worried that the center will be too close to their unpaved airstrip, which
    is located on UCSD-owned land, and used intermittently by glider pilots to
    launch over the Pacific Ocean. The planned 60-foot-tall
    building is not expected to have any impact on hang gliders.

    Supporters of the lab’s construction point out that the
    building would not be any taller than the surrounding eucalyptus trees, which
    do not seem to pose a problem to the pilots. In an editorial last week, the
    [San Diego Union-Tribune] said, “It would be a tragedy of enormous proportions
    if glider advocates succeeded in snuffing out this promising initiative.”

    However, Rolf Schulze, president of the Associated Glider
    Clubs of Southern California, said lab planners should explore other
    construction sites.

    “UCSD owns many other nearby sections of land that would be
    even more suitable for the stem-cell facility, while not resulting in the
    destruction of a world-renowned and historic aviation facility used by Charles
    Lindbergh and many other aviation pioneers,” he said.

    The California Coastal Commission and Caltrans will both
    have to approve the lab’s construction.

    The Historical Resources Commission in Napa,
    is considering expanding the borders
    of the gliderport in the National Register of Historic Places to protect it.

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