Buck Institute Awarded $4.1 Million for Shared Research and Laboratory and Training Facility for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

June 5, 2007  The Buck Institute will be a regional hub for human embryonic stem cell research (hESC) in northern California. A $4.1 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), announced today, will establish a shared research facility at the Institute, along with a training center where scientists can learn how to culture and use hESCs.

The monies were granted for the “North Bay CIRM Shared Research Laboratory for Stem Cells and Aging”. The new facility will utilize approximately 5,800 square feet of unused shell space in the Institute’s main building. Construction is expected to begin in September with completion scheduled for January 2008.  Funding is provided to run the facility for three years.

Buck faculty member Xianmin Zeng, PhD will be Program Director for both the shared laboratory space and the training facility.  She came to the Buck Institute in September 2005 from the National Institutes of Health, where she helped characterize many of the 22 federally approved hESCs lines now used in research in the U.S. Zeng’s own research focuses on the potential use of hESCs as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. “I am particularly gratified that CIRM designated the Buck Institute as a center for hESC research and a training facility for other scientists,” said Zeng. “The postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who will attend our courses have the potential to make a huge impact on human health; I’m excited to facilitate their development.”

The new shared research laboratory will consist of 36 lab benches and spaces for equipment and procedures commonly utilized in hESC research. The training facility will include a multi-purpose room and office space for week-long training courses that will take place four times each year.  Scientists from the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, the University of California, Berkeley, the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, Dominican University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Parkinson’s Institute, and the University of California, San Francisco have expressed interest in using the shared laboratory space. Buck Institute scientists focused on studying the aging process and specific age-related diseases are also expected to use the new facility as they explore the potential use of hESCs in their own lines of research.

“This award is a milestone in the Institute’s growth and evolution,” said Dale Bredesen, MD, Buck Institute CEO. “Having scientists from other organizations working and learning here builds on our commitment to be a world-class research institute that fosters innovative, interdisciplinary research.” Bredesen added, “The fact that aging is an important part of the context of hESC research allows the Buck Institute to make a unique and essential contribution to the overall field.”

This grant award will also provide new equipment that will allow scientists to purify nerve cells as they mature from hESCs and to develop strategies to transplant them in animal models that mimic human disease as well as to assess the long-term integration of hESCs in animals using a non-invasive imaging system.

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