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‘Your legacy as much as ours’

Officials with new stem cell research facility at UC Irvine dole out thanks and optimism about their work ahead.

May 14, 2010|By Joseph Serna

During the Friday opening of the new stem cell research center at UC Irvine, the institute’s director credited two parties — voters and donors — for helping to fund what is expected to become a leader in developing possible treatments for spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and other ailments.

“Whatever we achieve here, it is your legacy as much as ours,” said director Peter Donovan, who previously led the stem cell program at Johns Hopkins University. “The use of stem cells can revolutionize the treatment of human diseases and injuries.”

The UCI center has already attracted leading scientists from Canada and the United Kingdom.

“With this, it’s not just California speaking,” Klein said. “This is tangible evidence that the science is at a world-class level. California is now the world leader in stem cell research and biomedical research.”

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The opening of Sue and Bill Gross Hall: A California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Institute (CIRM) at UCI represented the will of not only leading scientists but more than 7 million California voters who in 2004 passed Proposition 71. The initiative supported new funding sources for stem cell research after then-President George W. Bush banned federal funding to develop new stem cell lines from embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization.

Through a $10-million gift from PIMCO co-founder Bill Gross of Newport Beach and his wife, UCI was able to attract a $27.2 million grant from CIRM. The rest of the institute’s $80 million cost came from private funding and the University of California system.

“This is a remarkable contribution to our children and our children’s children,” said Robert Klein, head of CIRM. “With great champions and great facilities, great scientists can change the world.”

CIRM also gave $27 million for an institute at USC and $19.9 million for one at UCLA. UCI’s institute, which covers 100,000 square feet over four stories, will soon be at the forefront of developing ways for stem cells to help patients with Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries and macular degeneration, among other ailments.

Human stem cells are cells on the most fundamental level that can be manipulated to form more complex cells like neurons, muscle and spinal cord tissue.

The new institute is winning accolades from researchers worldwide.

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