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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Monday, October 3, 2005

NIH Press Office

NIH Awards a National Stem Cell Bank and New Centers of Excellence in Translational Human Stem Cell Research

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director, Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., announced today that the NIH has awarded $16.1 million over four years to fund a National Stem Cell Bank and $9.6 million to fund two new Centers of Excellence in Translational Human Stem Cell Research for four years.

The National Stem Cell Bank, awarded to the WiCell Research Institute in Wisconsin, will consolidate many of the federally funded eligible human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines in one location, reduce the costs that researchers have to pay for the cells, and maintain quality control over the cells. The two Centers of Excellence, awarded to the University of California, Davis and Northwestern University will bring together stem cell experts, disease experts, and other scientists to explore ways human stem cells may be used in the future to treat a wide range of diseases such as blood cancers and blood disorders, kidney disease, and neurological disorders.

"The national stem cell bank is an important milestone in NIH's efforts to support the growing field of stem cell research," Dr. Zerhouni said. "This resource will enable us to fully analyze, characterize and control the quality of approved cell lines. This will optimize and standardize the techniques used for comparing the properties of stem cells, a critical step for both the basic and translational research that is needed for the eventual development of potential therapies."

The Stem Cell Bank will provide scientists affordable and timely access to federally approved human embryonic stem cells and other technical support that will make it easier for scientists to obtain the cell lines currently listed on the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry (http://stemcells.nih.gov/research/registry/). The stem cell expert team at the WiCell Research Institute, led by Dr. Derek Hei, principal investigator, and Dr. James Thomson, scientific director, will also ensure consistent quality of the lines by analyzing and comparing existing cell lines; documenting the growth characteristics of cell lines; assessing the cells’ genetic stability; and determining the molecular background and basic characteristics of the different cell lines.

Researchers at the two Stem Cell Centers of Excellence will develop new technologies to substantially advance the state of the art in using stem cells to approach a particular disease. The Centers are designed to encourage formation of new groups of investigators and partnering with clinicians to conduct stem cell research for disease specific applications, and increase the pool of professional scientists with disease specific expertise who work in stem cell biology.

The new centers are:

  • Northwestern University: John A. Kessler, M.D., principal investigator, will receive $3.6 million over four years to study factors that influence the differentiation of human ES cells, and to look at combining unique biomaterials and human ES cells as a possible means to repair the damaged spinal cord.
  • University of California, Davis: Alice F. Tarantal, Ph.D., principal investigator, will receive $6 million over four years to conduct multidisciplinary stem and progenitor cell research in preclinical primate models. The Center will study stem and progenitor cell co–culture methods for increasing the number of umbilical cord blood stem cells available for cell transplants, methods to isolate and expand renal progenitor cells as a potential cell therapy for urinary tract obstruction in children with kidney disease, and improved cell imaging methods that could be used for tracking small numbers of transplanted stem cells in clinical studies.
The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

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