Intel chair to make major contribution to new UCSF stem cell initiative

By Jennifer O'Brien

Intel chairman Andy Grove has announced a $5 million matching grant to launch the establishment of a major new Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Program at The University of California, San Francisco.

The “Grove Stem Cell Challenge” will fuel the new UCSF Stem Cell Discovery Fund, which is intended to fund basic studies in stem cell biology and their translation into clinical practice. The hope is that these studies could ultimately lead to treatments for such devastating diseases as diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“UCSF is one of the country’s leading biomedical research universities and medical centers, and is primed to make headway in the field of human embryonic stem cell research. The campus’s contribution to the field has already been significant, and the uniquely collaborative spirit between basic researchers and clinical researchers at UCSF could drive advances in the field,” says Grove.

UCSF has already helped to advance the field of stem cell biology. UCSF is one of only two academic institutions in the United States that produced human embryonic stem cell lines that qualified for inclusion on the Stem Cell Registry, established by President George Bush last August. UCSF will begin making these cell lines available to academic researchers for study in the coming months.

In addition, UCSF developmental biologist Didier Stainier, PhD, is pioneering studies of embryonic stem cells in zebrafish, identifying genes that contribute to the development of heart stem cells. And UCSF neuroscientist Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, PhD, recently discovered the origin of the human brain’s stem cells, and is exploring whether it is these cells that, when cancerous, lead to brain tumors.

But UCSF’s contribution to the field of embryonic stem cell research goes back even further. UCSF developmental biologist Gail Martin, PhD, co-discovered embryonic stem cells in mouse studies in the early 1980s, and coined the term.

The new Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology is intended to fuel UCSF’s existing research efforts and to broaden it, accelerating research in human cell, tissue and organ biology.

“UCSF scientists and physicians have an extraordinary opportunity to profoundly advance our understanding of human development and disease, and to apply these insights to produce powerful new approaches for treating devastating illnesses,” says Keith Yamamoto, PhD, UCSF School of Medicine vice dean for research. “The program will capitalize on the breadth, depth and collaborative culture within UCSF between basic researchers and clinical researchers.”

Donors participating in the Grove Stem Cell Challenge may contribute to individual UCSF investigators conducting stem cell research or directly to the UCSF Stem Cell Discovery Fund. In either case, for every gift of $50,000 to $500,000, Grove will make a matching gift to the UCSF Stem Cell Discovery Fund.

Grove is also the national chairman for the Campaign for UCSF, publicly launched in 2001to support major initiatives in research, education, patient care and the promotion of healthy communities. The campus’s goal is to raise $1.4 billion by 2005; UCSF has raised $926.2 million as of June 30.

The Stem Cell Discovery Fund will support the research of individual researchers working with stem cells, as well as the establishment of research core facilities that will provide equipment and expertise beyond the reach of individual investigators.

The facilities will include equipment for core research in imaging, tissue structure, cell culture and other technologies unique to the study of stem cells. The fund will also support seminars and faculty recruitment .

“The potential to add to our basic knowledge of human development and to establish therapeutic applications with stem cells is enormous. Our hope is that new therapies will eventually emerge through the collaboration of researchers at public institutions, in cooperation with private institutions, industry and international agencies,” says Yamamoto.