UC Irvine TODAY UC Irvine homepage UC Irvine TODAY

UC Irvine TODAY

News

News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

News Release

Email this page to a friend EmailPrinter friendly page PrintShare Share

State stem cell research funding agency awards $20 million to UCI, StemCells Inc.

Funds will advance joint project to treat spinal cord injury

— Irvine, Calif., July 27, 2012 —

Efforts to begin human clinical trials using stem cells to treat cervical spinal cord injury in the U.S. received a $20 million boost Thursday, July 26, from the state’s stem cell research funding agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The award will be shared by Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings, associate professors of physical medicine & rehabilitation at UC Irvine’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, and Nobuko Uchida of StemCells Inc. in Newark, Calif. Anderson and Cummings proved that transplanting human neural stem cells – discovered and developed by StemCells Inc. – into rodents with thoracic spinal cord injury could restore mobility. The CIRM award announced Thursday will fund the collection of data necessary to establish human clinical trials in the U.S.

“Our therapeutic approach is based on the hypothesis that transplanted human neural stem cells integrate into the injured spinal cord to repair the protective myelin sheath and spinal circuitry,” Anderson said. “Any therapy that can partially reverse some of the effects of spinal cord injury could substantially change the quality of life for patients by altering their dependence on assisted living and medical care.”

CIRM’s governing board on Thursday gave authorized $150 million for eight teams at five institutions statewide. The projects backed are considered critical to the institute’s mission of translating basic stem cell discoveries into clinical cures.

“CIRM’s support for UC Irvine’s efforts to advance novel stem cell-based therapies for a variety of diseases is extremely gratifying,” said Peter Donovan, director of the university’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. “This latest grant for spinal cord treatment holds great promise. We are delighted.”

About 1.3 million Americans suffer chronically from spinal cord injuries. In California, nearly 147,000 individuals are living with such damage, which can severely impair the movement, sensation and autonomic function of otherwise healthy people. Recovery from spinal cord injury is often limited, even after aggressive emergency intervention with steroids and surgery, followed by rehabilitation.

“That’s crushing for anyone,” Anderson noted. “It’s very tough for patients and their families. We believe stem cell therapies could provide significant functional recovery, improve quality of life and reduce the cost of care for those with spinal cord injury. That’s our goal.”

Anderson’s and Cummings' laboratory has a long history of collaboration with StemCells Inc. in addressing spinal cord injury, including studies that led to the world’s first clinical trial of a neural stem cell therapy for chronic spinal cord injury. This Phase I/II clinical trial, currently under way in Zurich, recently reported positive safety data from the first cohort of treated patients and continues to enroll subjects.

“We are very encouraged by the preliminary results in these volunteers," Cummings said, "and we are excited to receive CIRM funding to enable us to extend this approach to those with cervical injuries and to patients in the U.S.”

About CIRM: Established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is authorized to provide $3 billion in funding over 10 years for stem cell research and facilities throughout California.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.

Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings
Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications
UCI researchers Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings, in collaboration with StemCells Inc., received a $20 million award from the California stem cell research funding agency to develop human clinical trials for cervical spinal cord injury.

Media Contact

Cathy Lawhon
University Communications
949-824-1151
clawhon@uci.edu

Experts Available

UCI maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media.
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Irvine - Irvine, CA 92697 : 949-824-5011
Comments & Questions | Privacy & Legal Notice | Copyright Inquiries | © 2014 UC Regents