Two researchers receive $6 million in state stem cell funds

DEC. 12, 2012

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine today awarded two researchers at the School of Medicine about $3 million each to pursue translational stem cell research for hearing loss and for cognitive dysfunction caused by chemotherapy.

Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences, was awarded $2.8 million to investigate ways to identify and harness molecules involved in the regeneration and repair of neural white matter damaged by chemotherapy. Her goal is to create a drug therapy for chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction, also known as “chemobrain,” which affects more than 1 million cancer survivors in California.

CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions and required setting up the agency, CIRM, to oversee allocation of the money.

The awards are part of a total of more than $36 million for the New Faculty Physician Scientist Translational Research Awards, which are intended to support physician-scientists aiming to bring stem cell therapies into the clinic.

Michelle Monje

Stanford has now received a total of about $267 million from the state stem cell agency.

Alan Cheng, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology, will receive $3.1 million to investigate the biology of hair cells and their progenitors in the inner human ear. These cells do not normally regenerate, and their loss is a major cause of hearing disorders, which affect over 278 million people worldwide.

Alan Cheng

“These awards help physician-scientists in the critical early stages of their careers, providing them salary and research support for up to five years,” said CIRM president Alan Trounson, PhD, in a statement. “With this support, we are hoping to create a whole new group of world-class researchers in California.”

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