Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation Gives $30M to Stem Cell Research Centers at UCLA, UCSF and USC

Gift Increases Broads’ Total Support to California Stem Cell Research Centers to $113M

By Suzi Emmerling

Eli and Edythe Broad smiling for the picture.

Broad Foundation co-chairs Eli and Edythe Broad. Credit: Sam Comen.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will be making three gifts totaling $30 million to fund innovative research, faculty recruitment, training, and retention at The Broad Foundation’s namesake stem cell research centers at UC San Francisco, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. This commitment, announced by the Foundation’s President Gerun Riley just before the annual gathering of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), brings the Foundation’s total support of stem cell research centers in California to $113 million since 2005.

“We are proud to support California’s growing stem cell research and treatment infrastructure led by the talented scientists and staff at the Broad Stem Cell Centers at UCLA, UCSF, and USC,” said Broad Foundation President Gerun Riley. “With their commitment to identifying potential treatments for cancers, heritable disorders, and more, we believe the centers will continue to make life-changing medical breakthroughs that will impact the lives of people around the world.”

Also at the ISSCR annual meeting on June 26, 2019 were The Broad Foundation co-chairs, Eli and Edythe Broad, who were presented with the ISSCR Public Service Award.

Prompted by President George W. Bush’s veto of a bill that would have supported federal funding of stem cell research, The Broad Foundation made an initial investment of $65 million to create the three stem cell centers and enable their cutting-edge stem cell research, and have made supplemental gifts totaling an additional $113 million. Since then, scientists at the Broad-funded stem cell centers have developed a cure for the genetic immune system deficiency commonly known as the “bubble baby” disease and launched clinical trials for treatments of cancer, blinding eye diseases, spinal cord injuries, HIV, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening blood disorders.  

Today’s $30 million announcement comes as funding for scientific research is declining and researchers are finding it increasingly difficult to secure federal grants.

This renewed investment benefits:

  • The three centers’ stem cell training programs, which provide students and graduates from diverse academic, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds a world-class training experience that is fully integrated into the institutions’ medical schools and clinical enterprises. Collectively, these programs have educated 123 graduate students, 117 postdoctoral fellows, and 87 early career physician-scientists.
  • Faculty recruitment and retention, giving the centers critical resources to retain seasoned experts and attract the very best early- and mid-career investigators. These talented professionals will bring fresh perspectives and unique expertise to the centers’ highly collaborative research programs.

Each center’s top priorities are outlined below. 

Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

UCSF will leverage the funding to launch initiatives to better understand and potentially cure developmental disorders. Inspired by the promise of gene- and cell-based therapies to treat patients at the earliest stages in their lifespan, including a groundbreaking clinical trial in which UCSF researchers used stem cells to treat an unborn patient with a fatal blood disorder called alpha thalassemia, the center aims to begin a broader effort to dissect the molecular and genetic origins of heritable diseases for which early intervention may be possible. To accomplish this, the center will establish a foundational framework using human stem cell–based disease models to inform the discovery of novel drug candidates and treatment strategies.

“The Broad Foundation’s initial philanthropic gift established a unique basis for breakthrough discoveries across our three institutions, and this new investment will accelerate the transformation of these discoveries into patient therapies,” said Arnold Kriegstein, founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF, which is headquartered in the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at Parnassus Heights. Kreigstein is a professor of Neurology in the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

The gift to UCLA will propel scientific breakthroughs toward clinical application. Over the past 12 years, the center has achieved critical successes in stem cell gene modification, stem cell immunotherapy, cell replacement strategies, and drug discovery. The new funding from The Broad Foundation will enable UCLA scientists to build upon these achievements by advancing promising therapies across the so-called “valley of death,” where a lack of funding often prevents the translation of promising laboratory discoveries into clinical trials. The center will also use the funds to support technology development, including enhancing the synergy between stem cell technologies and nanomedicine to facilitate the development of less invasive and more effective therapies. 

“The Broad Foundation’s transformative early investment enabled our three centers to attract the best and brightest investigators from around the world,” said Owen Witte, founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and university professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular genetics. “These pioneering researchers have embraced the Broads’ mission of improving human health by building a truly collaborative scientific community in California.”  

At USC, the new funding will support the center’s core facilities and training programs, enable recruitment, and attract collaborative research funding to apply stem cell-based technologies to the challenge of age-associated diseases. Part of the foundation’s gift will be distributed through the Broad Innovation Awards, a grant program that encourages collaboration among stem cell researchers, engineers, biologists, and other experts. Previous projects supported by this award include efforts to optimize bone marrow transplants, develop biomaterials to promote the regeneration of the urethra, and explore novel approaches to treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

“We are indebted to The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation for their visionary and ongoing support of research across our stem cell centers,” said Andrew McMahon, the W.M. Keck Provost Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and Biological Sciences and director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. “This latest gift will ensure we continue apace with our current research and educational priorities while providing support to expand clinical collaborations to meet the challenge of disease within our patient population.”

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals, as well as affiliations throughout the Bay Area.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation invests in innovative scientific and medical research in the areas of human genomics, stem cell research and previously in inflammatory bowel disease. In an unprecedented partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and its affiliated hospitals and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, the foundation has committed $700 million to date to fund The Broad Institute, the world’s leading genomic medicine research institute focused on using the power of genomics to understand human disease. For more information, visit www.broadfoundation.org.