Stanford stem cell genomics center funded

California's stem cell agency granted $40 million Wednesday to study how the use of stem cells for therapy is affected by variations in the human genome.

The Center of Excellence for Stem Cell Genomics will be located at Stanford University. Competing proposals, including one by DNA sequencing giant Illumina and The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, were rejected by the California Institution for Regenerative Medicine.

Backers of the San Diego proposal said CIRM staff reviews of the proposals contained errors, such as including financial considerations when scientific merit was supposed to be the sole consideration. Stanford's proposal was highest-rated in the reviews.

The Stanford proposal earned praise from reviewers for the breadth of its research initiatives, from basic research to disease applications, along with the deep expertise of its scientists. Reviewers also liked the affiliated data management center, which will be located at UC Santa Cruz.

A number of San Diego research institutions will collaborate with Stanford's center. While the center itself will be placed at Stanford, the Salk Institute will participate as a joint principal investigator. The Scripps Research Institute and Illumina will also contribute, along with UC San Diego,and the J. Craig Venter Institute.

The Stanford proposal treats Illumina like a contractor, which doesnt make the best use of its abilities, said Scripps Research stem cell scientist Jeanne Loring, who attended the meeting. She submitted letters to the board from herself and Illumina explaining the project's benefits.

I was trying to tap into Illuminas intellectual power, which is often overlooked because they make most of their money by selling instruments and providing services, Loring said. But the people Id be working with are the ones who invented these technologies.

Illumina would benefit as a business by creating new markets, Loring said. For example, a test that tells whether stem cells have potentially dangerous mutations would be highly sought after.

Illumina pledged in a letter to CIRM that any products it sells under the agreement would be accessible, both in price and support.

Loring said she hopes the Scripps/Illumina proposal can still be funded, but there is no obvious alternative.

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Stanford stem cell genomics center funded

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