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CIRM Town Hall on Stem Cell Progress to Feature UCSF Faculty

By Jeff Norris

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will host a town forum on stem cell research progress on Wednesday, March 18, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Two UCSF faculty members and one former faculty member will be the featured speakers. Renee Reijo Pera, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine and a former UCSF faculty member, will give an overview about basic stem cell science. Bruce Conklin, MD, a UCSF professor of medicine and senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, will discuss how stem cell research can be used to learn more about human disease, and how this research is applicable to screening potential new drug candidates. UCSF’s Tamara Alliston, PhD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, will discuss applications of human stem cell research for human therapy. Alliston will talk about research aimed at regrowing damaged cartilage. Over the past year, Alliston has worked on CIRM-funded research as part of a team led by Jeffrey Lotz, PhD, UCSF professor of orthopaedic surgery. The team includes UCSF scientists with expertise in cell biology and industry researchers with expertise in biomaterials. The researchers now plan to compete for a much larger four-year CIRM grant, which is aimed at getting stem cell-based therapies into clinical trials within four years, and which also requires partnering between industry and academic participants. “That really is fast, from a basic science point of view,” Alliston says. “CIRM, by designing their requests for research proposals in this way, really is pushing basic research scientists – who are otherwise question-driven – to work on a product-driven approach.” CIRM was created in response to a state voter-approved initiative, Proposition 71, in November 2004. The initiative was a response to restrictions imposed on the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research imposed through executive order by former President George W. Bush in 2001. The Bush administration restrictions were lifted this past Monday through an executive order signed by President Barack Obama. Read here about how reversing the stem cell ban affects research at UCSF. During the intervening years, California’s citizens, through CIRM, have better enabled California stem cell researchers to make significant scientific progress. The forum on March 18 provides an opportunity for individuals to learn – from some of the most distinguished researchers in the field – how CIRM is investing Proposition 71 funds to advance stem cell research and improve human health. The three CIRM-funded speakers will speak briefly about the distinctive research programs they are involved in, and then will answer questions from the audience. Additional CIRM town hall meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 31, in San Diego and Wednesday, April 22, in Los Angeles.

Related Links:

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

UCSF Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research

Tamara Alliston, PhD
UCSF Cartilage Repair and Regeneration Center

Bruce Conklin, MD
Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease

Renee Reijo Pera, PhD
Stanford University School of Medicine