Bay Area universities are preparing to expand stem cell research programs as federal funding restrictions are lifted and state funding becomes available.
John Boothby, chairman of San Jose State University's department of biological sciences, said changes at the federal level, along with the state's stem cell funding agency, will allow California to expand its role as the national leader in the emerging industry of stem cell biology.
"California and higher education in California is now poised uniquely to take advantage of the federal funding that will now become available," he said.
San Jose State University recently received a $1.7 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state agency created to administer voter-approved funding for stem cell research. This money, Boothby said, will help train graduate-level students in stem cell research.
The grant also allows SJSU to develop its first-ever coursework in stem cell biology, Boothby said. This will include a class for biology majors and graduate students and a course on the general ethical issues surrounding stem cell research that will be open to all students. Developing this program, Boothby said, is a natural fit in a region known for technology and innovation.
San Francisco State University also received a $1.7 million training grant from CIRM. Nine other grants were awarded to schools in southern California. CIRM originally approved these grants in January, but waited to address some bond sale issues before moving to distribute this funding, according to a CIRM news release.
Changes at the federal level are also impacting Bay Area stem cell programs. Researchers are waiting to see how President Obama's lifting of federal restrictions on funding for stem cell research will specifically affect individual programs.
Before Obama signed an executive order March 9, federal research grants were limited only to the 21 cell lines designated by former President Bush in 2001. Currently researchers are waiting for the National Institutes of Health to issue new ethics guidelines.
During this 120-day waiting period, stem cell programs are gearing up to expand research to more trials in more labs, said Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California at San Francisco.