School of Medicine

CIRM funding will accelerate clinical trials of new treatments

Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM InstituteIrvine, Calif., Oct. 23, 2014 - In a first-of-its-kind alliance, UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center and UCLA's Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research have received a five-year, $8 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to establish a CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic.

The joint entity will conduct clinical trials of investigational stem cell therapies and provide critical resources and expertise via the creation of a world-class, state-of-the-art infrastructure supporting clinical research.

The $8 million grant was one of three awarded today by the state stem cell agency as part of the CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinics Network Initiative.

CIRM's grant proposal reviewers lauded the UC Irvine-UCLA partnership's "impressive and multidimensional team of experienced personnel" committed to expanding "access to patients, attracting national and international clinical trials, and accelerating future trials in the pipeline."

"UC Irvine has established a strong preclinical stem cell research program, and it's vital to move ahead to the clinical testing phase," said Sidney Golub, director of UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. "To advance treatments in this field, we all have to work together, and that's what the UC Irvine-UCLA Alpha Stem Cell Clinic program represents."

The initial stem cell trials supported by the clinic will be two UCLA projects using blood-forming stem cells. The first will test a stem cell-based gene therapy for patients with "bubble baby disease," also called severe combined immune deficiency, in which infants are born without an immune system.

The second clinical trial will use a patient's own genetically modified blood-forming stem cells to engineer and promote an immune response to melanomas and sarcomas.

Potential clinical studies at UC Irvine, such as those being considered for retinitis pigmentosa and stroke, will also be supported by the clinic.

"This CIRM grant is an important acknowledgement of our cutting-edge research and will help us to advance the design, testing and delivery of effective and safe stem cell-based therapies," said Dr. Owen Witte, professor and director of UCLA's Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research.

"The implementation of a standard of excellence in clinical research will improve healthcare and the lives of patients far beyond the longevity of individual trials."

"Everything we do has one simple goal, to accelerate the development of successful treatments for people in need," said C. Randal Mills, CIRM's president and CEO. "Stem cell therapies are a new way of treating disease. Instead of managing symptoms, cellular medicine has the power to replace or regenerate damaged tissues and organs. And so we need to explore new and innovative ways of accelerating clinical research with stem cells. That is what we hope these Alpha Stem Cell Clinics will accomplish."

About the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center: One of the largest and most technologically advanced stem cell research facilities in the world, UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center was established, in part, through a $10 million gift from Sue and Bill Gross. For more than 40 years, its scientists and research and graduate assistants have worked to unlock the potential of stem cells in treating and curing about 70 major diseases and disorders. Advances have led to the world's first clinical trial of a human neural stem cell-based therapy for chronic spinal cord injury and the first FDA-approved clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells. For more information, visit

About the Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research: The stem cell center was launched in 2005 with a UCLA commitment of $20 million over five years. A $20 million gift from the Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation in 2007 resulted in the renaming of the center. With more than 200 members, the Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research is dedicated to the integration of scientific, academic and medical disciplines for the purpose of understanding adult and human embryonic stem cells. It supports innovation, excellence and the highest ethical standards in relation to stem cell research directed toward future clinical applications to treat disease. The center is a collaboration of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Henry Samueli School of Engineering & Applied Science, and College of Letters & Science. For more information, visit

Photo credit: Steve Zylius / UC Irvine Strategic Communications