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Stem Cell Agency Awards $43M for Research Site at UCSD

The San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine moved closer to building a shared stem cell research facility May 7 with a pledge by the state stem cell agency to fund the project with $43 million.

The consortium is comprised of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, The Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and UC San Diego. Money from the taxpayer-funded California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will help pay for a four-story research facility near the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

Altogether, the governing board for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine voted to dole out $271 million to a dozen institutions. The institutions had originally requested $336 million.

The local consortium requested $50 million, the maximum amount allowable under agency guidelines, and came in second behind Stanford University for receiving the most grant dollars. It will use the $43 million from CIRM along with about $72 million in donor and institutional funds to pay for the $115 million building. With faculty recruitment and other administrative costs, the project is estimated at $155 million.

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“It is gratifying to see that the extraordinary support that the citizens of California placed in the potential of stem cell research to improve the health of all people is now becoming a reality,” said Dr. Edward Holmes, the consortium’s president and a former head of UCSD’s medical school, in a statement.


Combining Scientific Resources

Researchers from all four institutions will have use of the building, which will serve as a place where scientists from a variety of disciplines combine expertise to bring new drugs and diagnostics to the market.

Research conducted there is envisioned to drive understanding of the fundamental biology of stem cells, where basic discoveries and technologies are translated to develop tools such as in vitro assays and in vivo models for drug discovery and where drug candidates and procedures for treating human disease are developed.

One key design element is the facility’s “open” laboratories. No walls separate research teams and open staircases directly connect laboratories on all floors.

The purpose of the open design is to expand the opportunities for scientists to meet and interact.

The building, being developed by San Diego-based Lankford & Associates Inc., will feature an auditorium and space for training.

Meetings for the Southern California Stem Cell Consortium will move to the new venue.

Space is also provided to house 10 to 15 young scientists straight out of residency or fellowship programs.

The local consortium said it hopes to break ground by the first quarter of 2009.

The structure would meet federal requirements for green construction by incorporating systems that reclaim half the water that would otherwise be discharged and maximize use of natural ventilation and lighting.

The 7.5-acre site, owned by the UCSD, is within walking distance from the four institutions.

It is also home to one of two flight parks in the nation listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the only park located on the coast.

Some have expressed concerns about the proposed site’s proximity to the Torrey Pines Gliderport, saying that activities there might not be possible with the new facility positioned in its most popular landing path.

The pilots have asked the State Historical Resources Commission to consider expanding the gliderport’s boundaries, but the move may not halt construction of the site.

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