NIH News Release
Office of the Director

Office of Extramural Research

Friday, April 26, 2002

NIH Communications Office
(301) 496-4461

NIH Grants Infrastructure Awards For Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bethesda, Maryland — The National Institutes of Health announced today the granting of four resource infrastructure enhancement awards for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. These awards will stimulate the use of hESC in basic research by providing funds for expansion, testing, quality assurance, and distribution of existing cell lines that meet the President's criteria for federal funding of research on hESC. The four entities to receive the awards include Cellsaurus, a subsidiary of Bresagen, of Athens, Georgia; ES Cell International Pte. Ltd., of Singapore and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; the University of California, San Francisco, California; and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin.

"These awards represent the first major expenditure by the NIH for supporting human embryonic stem cell research," said Ruth Kirschstein, M.D., Acting NIH Director. "By providing these funds, the NIH is hoping to get these cells into the hands of basic scientists as quickly as possible."

The four entities are listed on the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry, and have a combined total of 17 stem cell lines that will be available to basic scientists for research. These awards provide a total of approximately $3.5 million over two years. NIH sponsors of the awards include the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of Aging (NIA); The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

A stem cell is a special kind of cell that has a unique capacity to renew itself and to give rise to specialized cell types. Although most cells of the body, such as heart cells or skin cells, are committed to conduct a specific function, a stem cell is uncommitted and remains uncommitted, until it receives a signal to develop into a specialized cell. Researchers hope that the study of hESC will lead to a better understanding of cell function, cell differentiation, and human development.

BresaGen, Ltd. is an Australian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and commercial development of innovative biotherapies. During two decades of experience, the company has been involved in reproductive and developmental biology and in the manufacture of recombinant protein pharmaceuticals. Its U.S. subsidiary, BresaGen, Inc. is located in Athens, Georgia.

ES Cell International is a regenerative medicine company focusing on developing therapeutic products from human embryonic stem (hES) cells. ES Cell International was incorporated in Singapore in July 2000. Its corporate headquarters, together with a dedicated research and production facility, are housed within a leading Australian Medical Research Precinct. ES Cell International funds research collaborations with the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development (Australia), the National University of Singapore (Singapore), Hadassah Medical Organisation (Israel), and the Hubrecht Laboratory (the Netherlands).

University of California, San Francisco is one of the country's leading health sciences institutions. UCSF is dedicated to scientific research, graduate education and patient care. Three UCSF scientists have been named Nobel laureates in the last 10 years.

The WiCell Research Institute, Inc., is a non-profit institution established in 1999 to advance research in the area of stem cells. It has a license from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) to distribute stem cells. WARF, founded in 1925, patents research discoveries at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funded primate research studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, that led to certain discoveries claimed in Wisconsin patent rights.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the premier federal agency for biomedical research.