Eli and Edythe Broad announce new $1M grant at stem cell symposium hosted by UCLA

Symposium featured a special tribute to the Broads and presentations from UCLA, USC and UCSF stem cell researchers
Mirabai Vogt-James
Thursday, February 9, 2017
At a celebratory lunch, the three Broad Stem Cell Research Center directors post with Eli & Edythe Broad.
The three Broad Stem Cell Research Center directors thank Eli & Edythe Broad for their visionary philanthropy. From left: Owen Witte, Eli Broad, Edythe Broad, Arnold Kriegstein and Andy McMahon

Leading California stem cell researchers, advocates and philanthropists gathered on Friday, February 3 for the 13th annual stem cell symposium hosted by the Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

This year, the Broad Stem Cell Research Centers at USC and UCSF joined UCLA in a special collaborative tri-center symposium to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Eli and Edythe Broad’s visionary philanthropy that established the three centers. The event featured a tribute to the Broads and scientific presentations by faculty from each center on cutting-edge stem cell research in cancer, genetic and neurological diseases, hearing loss, fertility, zika, ageing and organ regeneration.

After receiving a standing ovation, Eli Broad addressed a packed auditorium of more than 450 attendees and made a surprise announcement of a new $1 million grant to fund innovative pilot stem cell research projects at the three centers.

“Edye and I could not be more pleased with the progress that has been made at these three stem cell centers,” said Eli Broad in a Broad Foundation press release. “Our goal in funding scientific and medical research is to improve the human condition. Stem cell research and genomic medicine are advancing how diseases are diagnosed, treated and even cured, and we want to encourage that progress to continue.”

Event attendees included patient advocates, members of the Bloomfield family whose foundation generously endowed the annual symposium and representatives from California’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which provides significant funding for stem cell research, infrastructure and training through state Proposition 71.

“This event is a great tribute to the progress being made in stem cell research and how generous philanthropy accelerates research through the translational pipeline to the creation of treatments and cures,” said Owen Witte, founding director of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

The translation of scientific discovery from the lab to the clinic is a major focus of all three Broad Stem Cell Research Centers. One example is Donald Kohn’s pioneering work to create a stem cell gene therapy for genetic blood diseases. Kohn, a physician-scientist at UCLA, spoke about the success of his clinical trials for a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, commonly known as ADA-SCID or “bubble baby” disease. Children with baby bubble disease who lack a matched bone marrow donor do not commonly survive for more than two years due to the lack of an immune system. Kohn’s gene therapy creates an immune system using the baby’s own blood forming stem cells. The treatment has cured 30 out of 30 babies and similar treatments are now being applied in clinical trials for two other genetic blood diseases: x-linked chronic granulomatous disease and sickle cell disease.

“Thanks to innovations in stem cell research and Dr. Kohn’s work, new treatments for sickle cell disease can become a reality,” said event attendee Adrienne Bell-Cors, a patient advocate whose daughter has sickle cell disease. “This event was inspiring; I learned about all of the progress being made and was delighted to be able to thank Eli and Edythe Broad directly. Their support and the overall momentum of stem cell research in California gives me hope for my daughter and others impacted by disease.”

Andy McMahon, director of USC’s Broad Stem Cell Research Center, and Arnold Kriegstein, director of UCSF’s Broad Stem Cell Research Center, also spoke about the Broads’ influential philanthropy. McMahon noted that the Broads’ philanthropy accelerates stem cell research in California and provides critical support for the recruitment and retention of leading experts in the field. Kriegstein highlighted three core areas impacted by the Broads’ support: pre-clinical innovation and discovery, training for clinician scientists and translational medicine that brings new treatments to patients; these themes were underscored in a tribute video presented to the Broads.

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