UCLA and UCI awarded $8m grant to launch collaborative stem cell clinic “center of excellence”

By Peter Bracke | Oct 23, 2014 Awards & Funding Center News

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, the University of California, Los Angeles, Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and University of California, Irvine Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center received a five year $8M grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state’s stem cell agency, to establish a CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic “center of excellence” to conduct clinical trials for investigational stem cell therapies and provide critical resources and expertise in clinical research.

The $8M grant was one of three awarded today by CIRM as part of the CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinics (CASC) Network Initiative. The joint UCLA/UCI award under the direction of Dr. John Adams, a member of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center and professor in the department of orthopaedic surgery, will accelerate the implementation of clinical trials and delivery of stem cell therapies by providing world-class, state-of-the-art infrastructure to support clinical research.

CIRM grant reviewers lauded the UCLA/UCI Consortium’s “impressive and multidimensional team of experienced personnel” that will expand “access to patients, attracting national and international clinical trials and accelerating future trials in the pipeline.” 

The initial stem cell trials supported by the UCLA/UCI Alpha Stem Cell Clinic will be two UCLA projects using blood forming stem cells. The first trial will test a stem cell-based gene therapy for patients with “bubble baby disease,” also called severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), in which babies are born without an immune system. Under the direction of Dr. Donald Kohn, the clinical trial will use the baby’s own stem cells with an inserted gene modification to correct the defect and promote the creation of an immune system. The second clinical trial, under the direction of Dr. Antoni Ribas, will use patient’s own genetically modified blood-forming stem cells to engineer and promote an immune response to melanoma and sarcomas.

“This CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic grant is an important acknowledgement of our cutting-edge research and will help us to advance the design, testing and delivery of effective and safe stem cell-based therapies,” said Dr. Owen Witte, professor and director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center. “The implementation of a standard of excellence in clinical research will improve healthcare and the lives of patients far beyond the longevity of individual trials.”

Operating as part of the larger state-wide CIRM supported network, Alpha Stem Cell Clinics provide critical operational support to conduct clinical trials, with focused resources and expertise in stem cell-based clinical research including clinical operations support and patient care coordination personnel.   

 “UCI has established a strong preclinical stem cell research program, and it’s vital to move ahead to the clinical testing phase,” said Sidney Golub, director of UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. “To advance treatments in this field, we all have to work together, and that’s what the UCLA-UCI Alpha Stem Cell Clinic program represents.”