LETTER FROM THE VICE CHANCELLOR
Stem cell therapies offer hope to thousands of people suffering from diseases or injuries that destroy or damage vital cells. I am excited that UC Davis is at the forefront of bringing these entirely new medical treatments to patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, spinal cord injuries and other diseases.
We are fortunate that Californians once again are leading the way by creating the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which provides critical funding to develop these novel treatment strategies for humans. Although legal challenges have temporarily tied up much of the funding, UC Davis is moving rapidly to enhance its research program.
UC Davis has been conducting leading-edge stem cell research for several years and currently has investigations under way on many types of stem cells, using both human and animal models. Our university is a recipient of one of CIRM’s first grants to train young scientists in stem cell research. In addition, the National Institutes of Health tapped UC Davis as one of only two centers in the nation for stem and progenitor cell translational research. As part of that $6 million grant, UC Davis researcher Alice Tarantal will develop new cell-based therapies for the treatment of childhood illnesses.
Perhaps our most significant step forward yet is our recent recruitment of a top-notch director for our stem cell program. Jan Nolta, who comes to us from Washington University where she was scientific director for cell processing and gene therapy, is a perfect leader for this important work. She has been studying how adult stem cells can be directed to areas of tissue damage, a key step in developing better methods for using stem cell therapies to treat diabetes, liver and cardiovascular diseases, among others. Her leadership skills and research expertise in human stem cells will offer us an exciting path to groundbreaking discoveries.
Joining Dr. Nolta is Washington University colleague Gerhard Bauer, who was laboratory director of the St. Louis institution’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) lab. Bauer will direct our cell and gene therapy GMP lab, which we are building to provide an exceptionally clean and sterile environment for processing the biological products used in human treatments. Our new GMP lab will be part of a larger, 100,000-square-foot facility we are renovating on Stockton Boulevard for stem cell research.
In this special issue of UC Davis Medicine, you will read not only about the breadth and depth of our stem cell research program but also about the passions our scientists have in learning all they can about the role of stem and progenitor cells in health and disease. Please take time to read about our initiative and tell us what you think by e-mailing us at UCDavisMedicine@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.