URMC Scientists Awarded $6.8 Million in Stem Cell Research Grants

March 18, 2009

Ten scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have been awarded more than $6.8 million by the Empire State Stem Cell Board. The grants are for a wide range of research programs in the fields of neurological disorders, cancer, musculoskeletal diseases, the blood system, and efforts to understand the fundamental mechanics of stem cell biology. 

“Stem cell science represents one of the critical new frontiers of medicine,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of URMC and a member of the Empire State Stem Cell Funding Board. “The state’s decision to invest in this field will enable New York’s scientists to be leaders in this important area of medicine and for New York to become a magnet for scientific talent, research funding, and biotechnology.”

The Empire State Stem Cell Board was created in 2008 and the state plans to award $600 million during an 11 year period. Last week, Governor Paterson unveiled $101.8 million in total stem cell research awards. His announcement coincided with President Barack Obama’s decision to rescind federal restrictions on the use of embryonic stem cells. 

The URMC awardees announced by the state include:

  • Hani Awad, Ph.D. – Investigate the repair of articular cartilage defects – a common condition affecting the knee – by employing bone marrow-derived stem cells in a novel, cartilage-derived scaffold to rebuild damaged cartilage tissue;
  • Dirk Bohmann, Ph.D. – A collaborative project involving the University of Rochester Departments of Biomedical Genetics and Biology to investigate the precise genetic “controls” of adults stem cells;
  • Laura Calvi, Ph.D. – Investigate methods to improve the recovery of hematopoietic cells (stem cells in the blood system) that are depleted after cancer treatments;
  • Di Chen, Ph.D. – Examine the function of stem cells found in the blood system and their possible use in the treatment of osteoporosis and other metabolic bone diseases;
  • Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D. – Develop new therapies for adult de-myelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis;
  • Catherine Ovitt, Ph.D. – Investigate the use of stem cells to repair salivary glands damaged during radiation treatment for neck cancers;  
  • James Palis, Ph.D. – Investigate stem cells found in the early stages of development that may enable scientists to develop a universal donor red blood cell to treat conditions such as life-threatening anemias;
  • Gregory Tall, Ph.D. – Explore the molecular mechanisms in stem cells that regulate division and specialization;
  •  Lei Xu, Ph.D. – Develop new methods to identify cancer stem cell markers and strategies to selectively destroy these cells;
  • Xinping Zhang, Ph.D. – Investigate the use of stem cells to improve the healing time and efficacy of bone grafts for trauma, infection or tumor removal. 

URMC is home to several leading stem cell research programs. There are approximately 40 scientists at URMC that work with stem cells in some form or another and their labs employ more than 230 people and are supported with more than $78 million in total ongoing multi-year research grants.

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Mark Michaud
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