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State Stem Cell Agency Funds Three New UC San Diego Projects

The governing Board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has approved a trio of awards, totaling approximately $4 million, to University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers to advance studies of new stem cell-based treatments for multiple types of cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The awards were announced August 24, 2021.

Building a better macrophage

Principal investigator Dan Kaufman, MD, PhD, professor of medicine in the Division of Regenerative Medicine and director of cell therapy at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues were awarded $1.4 million to develop a new chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) therapy for treating refractory or drug-resistant malignancies, such as ovarian cancer. The approach will used human induced pluripotent stem cells to engineer improved macrophages, ultimately resulting in a standardized, off-the-shelf therapy rather than current treatments that involve patient-specific development.

Improving stem cell migration

Principal investigator Ziwei Huang, PhD, professor in the Department of Medicine, and colleagues were awarded $1.1 million to develop a new therapeutic for directing the migration of target-specific therapeutic stem cells. The goal is to optimize treatment benefit by getting the stem cells to the disease site, specifically treatment of ALS.

Targeting cancer stem cells

Principal investigator Tannishtha Reya, PhD, professor of pharmacology and medicine, and colleagues were awarded $1.2 million to develop a small molecule inhibitor that blocks the growth of cancer stem cells that drive human pancreatic cancer and acute myeloid leukemia, leading to new treatments and improved diagnoses and prognoses.


CIRM was created by California voters in 2004 to fund stem cell research in the state, with the goal of accelerating treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. The agency funds research at institutions and companies throughout California. In 2020, California voters approved continued funding of CIRM.


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