Dr. John ChuteDr. John Chute, member of UCLA’s Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has been awarded a Research Leadership Award of $5.1 million from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state’s stem cell agency. Announcement of the award came at the meeting of the CIRM Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC), the governing board of the agency, in La Jolla, CA on May 29, 2014.  Dr. Chute is the only clinician scientist to receive a CIRM Leadership Award.

The CIRM Leadership Award is intended to bolster California’s efforts in stem cell research and further its mission to advance novel treatments and cures into medical practice. As a clinician-scientist focused on the creation of cell therapies, Dr. Chute, a professor of hematology-oncology in the department of medicine and the department of radiation oncology, brings the unique capability of translating scientific discoveries directly to the treatment of patients.  Dr. Chute came to UCLA earlier this year from Duke University in North Carolina.

Dr. Chute’s groundbreaking research focuses on the study of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC, the cells that become blood cells) and how they grow. Specifically, he and his colleagues are defining the mechanisms through which the bone marrow microenvironment cells regulate HSC self-renewal, repair and regeneration. Among his multiple discoveries are two novel proteins that are essential to the growth of blood cells.

With this knowledge, Dr. Chute and his team can also understand how leukemia stem cells use the same mechanisms in their growth, and target those growth factors with cellular therapies.

“We’ve shown that our approach of creating genetic mouse models to find proteins that regulate HSC growth works,” Dr. Chute said. “We are now poised to translate some of these into phase I clinical trials. Thus, there is strong translational value in our work and it is a validated discovery program for understanding how the microenvironment cells regulate HSC in the body.”

The Research Leadership Awards enabled universities and research institutions to attract the best, non-California stem cell scientists who have established themselves as independent investigators and emerging leaders in the field. The award allows recipients to pursue high-risk, high-payoff research that could not be adequately supported by other sources. Awards have a five-year funding period and each eligible California institution is allowed only one recipient, emphasizing its rarity and importance.

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