UC Davis officially opens California’s first stem cell research facility
Posted March 17, 2010
The new, $62 million UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), received its official unveiling during a grand-opening ceremony on Wednesday, March 10, on the Sacramento campus of UC Davis.
The new facility is the first of several major, CIRM-supported laboratories to open. The state's stem cell agency provided key funding for the initial phase of the project, which is envisioned to be a $100-million hub for regenerative medicine research that eventually will house more than 200 UC Davis scientists and laboratory personnel.
The ceremony featured remarks by Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine at UC Davis; Robert Klein, CIRM chairman; Jan Nolta, director, UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures; Judy Roberson, president, Northern California Chapter of the Huntington's Disease Society of America; and Kevin and Teresa Partington, parents of twins who suffer from cystinosis, a rare, hereditary disorder.
“Within this new stem cell institute, our scientists and physicians, from a wide range of disciplines, are working together to innovate and discover answers for people with serious injury and illness from across the state and around the world," said Pomeroy. "This facility gives the best minds in medicine the tools they need to turn stem cells into cures."
"This facility gives the best minds in medicine the tools they need to turn stem cells into cures."
— Claire Pomeroy
The 109,000 square-foot building on Stockton Boulevard originally was part of the old California State Fairgrounds. Over the past 18 months, construction crews renovated 54,000 square feet of space, creating new research facilities that include Northern California's largest academic Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) laboratory, a state-of-the-art suite of rooms that will enable scientists to safely prepare and manufacture cellular and gene therapies for clinical trials.
Designed to maximize research collaboration and innovation, the new Institute for Regenerative Cures will be a centralized location for researchers from departments and programs throughout UC Davis as well as a shared-research facility for other institutions to use. The initial phase of the project provides space for approximately 20 senior scientists and 115 other researchers and technicians.
"This is an exciting day, not only for UC Davis but for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the entire state of California,” said Robert Klein, chair of the CIRM Governing Board. “Proposition 71’s initial “push” for the construction of new research facilities, like the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, will now generate the long-term funding “pull” from the outstanding scientists and clinicians who will be housed in these facilities and who will strive to obtain supplemental public and private resources to drive stem cell research and therapy developments for California patients and their families."
"What is exciting about this facility is that it is designed to integrate basic science and clinical medicine."
— Jan Nolta
Researchers will move all of their equipment into the building in the coming weeks. They are working toward launching several clinical trials using adult stem cells to explore potential treatments for Huntington’s disease, retinal occlusion (vision impairment) and peripheral vascular disease. UC Davis researchers already have treated four patients with adult stem cells to repair tissues damaged by heart attacks. The new GMP suite will greatly expand the university’s ability to test novel treatments and therapies.
“What is exciting about this facility is that it is designed to integrate basic science and clinical medicine,” said Nolta, who is a professor of internal medicine. “UC Davis now has 15 disease-specific teams, with expertise ranging from liver and kidney diseases to cancer, HIV, blood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Bringing together this clinical knowledge and laboratory experience keeps the primary focus on patient needs and helps us rapidly advance the opportunities to find cures.”
Clinical and research programs throughout the university are playing active roles in the disease-team work. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine provides unique benefits to the stem cell program not found at other institutions. Equine research experts in Davis are working closely with Nolta and her team to develop techniques that will help in bone and tissue regeneration in horses and also to treat cancer and spinal cord injuries for dogs. Those research outcomes will help guide similar studies involving bone and tissue regeneration and fighting cancer in humans.
The institute also benefits from its location on UC Davis’ Sacramento campus, where nearby facilities include a nationally designated cancer center, a renowned neurodevelopmental institute, state-of-the-art imaging and biophotonics programs, and UC Davis Medical Center. The ability to renovate a large, existing building also provided crucial advantages for the stem cell program.
“UC Davis chose to spend its CIRM funding on state-of-the-art equipment, not fancy building facades or design,” said Pomeroy. “It allowed us to accelerate construction and focus on quickly creating a unique facility that will support our researchers to fully concentrate on addressing critical health challenges faced by the patients and communities we serve.”
Plans call for the remaining 38,000 square feet of space to be built out as new grants and other funding becomes available. The building already houses the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and complements much of the research work that soon will be taking place within the new institute.