Stem cell research in Alabama gets anonymous $1 million boost

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A new organization looking to stimulate stem cell research got a shot in the arm last month with an anonymous $1 million donation.

The Alabama Institute of Medicine wants to use the money to help fund four to five pilot studies which typically cost about $100,000 to $300,000 a piece, said Tory Williams co-founder of the private, nonprofit organization.

On Monday AIM will ask Alabama scientists to begin submitting their applications for funding, a process called a Request For Application (RFA). The applications will be reviewed on a double-blind basis -- meaning the grantee not knowing the reviewer and vice versa.

"We want to raise money for pilot studies aimed at treating such diseases as cancer, diabetes, cardiac, sports injury and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," she said.

She said she feels good about raising their goal of $10 million this year. A longer term goal is to develop a hospital where regenerative medical treatments can be administered.

She said 90 percent of the funds will go toward research. All donations are placed in AIMs scientific trust fund and are recognized as tax- deductible donations.

In 2012 she worked to help pass a law for spinal cord injury research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During that time she saw how scientists were not being encouraged to engage in advanced stem cell research like hESCs -- human embryonic stem cells.

She acknowledged that Alabama has a segment of the population that is opposed to such research on religious grounds but she said she has been amazed by the support.

"Research involving embryos has been controversial," she said. "But over 500,000 embryos are thrown away every year from fertility clinics. It almost like recycling. Take something that is being thrown away every year and treat people dying of these diseases."

Williams was recently featured in a Q&A in the Knoepfer Lab Blog at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine.

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Stem cell research in Alabama gets anonymous $1 million boost

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