What $20 Million Can Do

Image of Eli & Edythe Broad

Eli and Edythe Broad are well known for their generous philanthropy and commitment to education, the arts, and scientific and medical research. We often hear about the donations they make through their foundations and now want to take this opportunity to share with you the impact their gift has had on our stem cell program.

In 2007, Mr. and Mrs. Broad, through their foundation, generously donated $20 million to UCLA’s stem cell institute. In honor of their generosity, the stem cell institute was named the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research. The gift has had a profound effect on UCLA’s ability to lead the field in stem cell discoveries and its translation to patient care.

The resources provided by the Broad gift to our Center are unique in that 100% has been allocated toward building and strengthening our research program, rather than endowment or capital needs. The funds enabled the Center, in collaboration with academic departments, to recruit 18 new faculty to UCLA, each with a diverse set of research interests.

In addition to the resources committed to faculty recruitment, the Broad gift has been instrumental in our ability to acquire crucial cutting-edge scientific equipment that is made available to center members and ensures their ability to successfully compete in the research arena. Another critical benefit from the gift has been the Center’s ability to support the derivation, banking, and distribution of 11 human embryonic stem cells (hESC) lines that are among a limited number of lines approved by the NIH for use in federally funded research. We have also created a specialized FDA compliant Good Manufacturing Practices laboratory for the derivation of clinical grade stem cells that enables UCLA to efficiently make cells for use in clinical trials and future patient treatments. We can safely say that it would have taken us much more than five years to achieve these milestones had it not been for the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Broad.

The effect of the Broad gift on our Center does not end with the strength of our infrastructure, successful faculty recruitment, and the creation of a leading edge laboratory environment. We have also instituted an Innovation and Seed Research Award Program with nearly 20% of the funds provided by the Broad gift. Faculty pursuing novel stem cell research are eligible to submit an application for funding through the Center. Awards range from $50,000-$250,000 for one year. Since instituting this program we have awarded nearly $5 million in research awards to support the early stages of scientific research. Our faculty have effectively leveraged these research dollars and turned it into more than $40 million of research funds from external sources to continue funding of their innovative research.

The value from Mr. and Mrs. Broad’s philanthropy has multiplied many times over in every aspect of the Center’s structure. Our program has achieved great success; making important discoveries that we hope will one day fundamentally change the medical treatment for people with serious illnesses. For example:

• We are the first institution running a hESC derived cell based clinical trial for eye disease, bringing us one step closer to treatments for age-related macular degeneration and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, and

• Our scientists demonstrated for the first time that blood stem cells can be engineered to create cancer-killing T-cells that seek out and attack a human melanoma.

• Our faculty are credited for identifying the cell of origin resulting in squamous cell cancer, pinpointing a protein that plays an important role in prostate cancer initiation and progression, and discovering a new stem cell that repairs the large airways of the lungs.

• Four of our recently recruited young scientists successfully collaborated on a project and became the first in California to derive induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). The landmark discovery proved skin or blood cells could be reprogrammed into an embryonic-like pluripotent state that enables the development of an unlimited source of any type of human cell needed for therapeutic purposes. At that time, science had long understood that tissue specific cells, such as skin cells or blood cells, could only create other like cells. With this groundbreaking discovery, iPSC research has quickly become the foundation for a new regenerative medicine.

Day by day we are advancing our understanding of stem cell biology and disease. The Broad gift has accelerated our efforts of building a strong foundation for continued growth and expansion. As we look forward, we hope their continued support, along with growing support from the community, will lead us to major stem cell discoveries that will revolutionize the treatment of devastating diseases, and ultimately change the face of medicine.