State advised to grant UCSF $38M

The University of California, San Francisco, has been recommended to receive $38 million from the state’s stem cell institute to fund a new research facility — the third highest grant amount from a pool of $262 million the agency is expected to award to 12 agencies statewide.

Stanford University is in line to receive the highest amount, $50 million, according to the recommendations, which were released by the San Francisco-based California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, on Saturday.

The grants, combined with matching money and leveraged funds from donors and the institutions, is expected to result in $750 million in new research laboratories for stem cell work, including human embryonic stem cell research that is not funded through the federal government, according to the CIRM officials.

Federally maintained human embryonic stem cell lines have declined in quality and number, and federal dollars can only be used on studies using those lines.

Funds from CIRM can push the science further, and the new facilities may bring fresh lines to the study of stem cells, said Marie Csete, chief scientific officer of CIRM.

UCSF will use its $38 million toward a planned $95 million stem cell research building behind its current hospital on Parnassus Avenue in the Inner Sunset.

The new building would offer researchers 45,000 square feet of space while having a “garden-like roof” over the entire building to make it environmentally friendly, said Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Institute for Regeneration Medicine at UCSF.

In 2001, the federal government’s National Institute of Health limited human embryonic stem cell research to less than 20 lines of cells, which has been a “hindrance” and “slowed down progress considerably,” Kriegstein said.

Federal grant money paying for supplies and research can only go toward materials and researchers working on federally approved lines, but UCSF officials hope to utilize state and private funding to build the facility, which is intended to become the “center of gravity” for stem cell research completed at USCF, the director said.

The building, planned for completion in 2010, would aid the campus in recruiting more scientists to The City, Kriegstein added.

The final approval for the $262 million in grants is scheduled to be made by the CIRM board in May; the recommendations were made by the agency’s Scientific and Medical Facilities Working Group.

State voters established CIRM, with Proposition 71 in 2004 providing $3 billion in bond funding for the research.

dsmith@examiner.com

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