Ray and Dagmar Dolby have donated $16 million to the University of California, San Francisco, in support of the construction of a proposed research building. With the donation, the UCSF Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology will be renamed the UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine.
"The donation for this new building is intended to help accelerate the whole research program," said Ray Dolby. "At the same time, I also think it is useful to name the endeavor in a way that might make its purpose as clear as possible."
"The Dolbys have made an extremely generous gift," said UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop. "Their donation lays the foundation for a building that is intended to maximize the potential of scientists to develop cell-based therapies for presently incurable diseases."
David A. Kessler, MD, Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs, said, "This gift will help enable UCSF and its scientists to make discoveries that could ultimately lead to treatments for traumatic and degenerative disorders and provide important insights into a wide range of diseases and conditions."
The donation is the Dolbys' second major gift to stem cell research. In June 2005, they donated $5 million to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which supported the Institute in establishing the infrastructure necessary for administering the $3 billion in general obligation bonds for stem cell research authorized by voters with the passage of Proposition 71 in November 2004. Litigation challenging the constitutionality of the measure has delayed sale of the bonds, and thus tied up funding for infrastructure. A California state court on April 21 upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 71, but the appeals process is expected to continue until next spring.
Dolby said he thinks the new name for the UCSF program, Institute for Regeneration Medicine, will help people grasp the significance of the research and its enormous potential for the future.
"The discovery of stem cells was a wonderful thing but, unfortunately, this name by itself does not seem to very well suggest what is happening or how. Moreover, the term stem cell seems to have acquired a negative meaning with some people," said Dolby. "I hope that those who hear about the new Institute for Regeneration Medicine will visualize the nature of the research actually taking place and what its purpose is. My layman's comprehension is that scientists are studying stem cells to understand the early stages of human development and to identify ways to use the cells to replenish or restore damaged tissue. Everyone is hopeful that the research at the Institute, as well as studies already underway in the field, could pave the way for myriad new approaches to treating a wide variety of diseases."
UCSF began considering construction of a regeneration medicine building in early 2004. Last summer, the University initiated a conceptual design phase with world-renowned architectural firm Rafael ViÃ±oly Architects. UCSF expects to have a realistic cost estimate following completion of this design phase early this summer.
Funding for the building, which is planned for the UCSF Parnassus Campus, is expected to come in part from philanthropic and foundation sources. UCSF also plans to submit a grant proposal for partial funding from CIRM. Final plans for the building are subject to approval by the Regents of the University of California.
The building will bring under one roof some 15 labs involved in various areas of human and animal embryonic and adult stem cell and related early-cell studies. It will serve as the core of a research program that will continue to extend throughout UCSF.
"The objective of the building," said Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the newly named UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine, "is to foster intensive collaboration and a cross-pollination of ideas across a broad spectrum of labs and disciplines, with the goal of answering fundamental questions about the earliest steps of embryo and cell development.
"Insights into these processes will help lay the groundwork for controlling cell differentiation and exploring the possibility of regenerating tissues destroyed by diseases and traumatic injuries," he said.
Expanding on the rationale for the donation, Ray Dolby said, "Dagmar and I were inspired by Proposition 71's creation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which had been spearheaded by Bob Klein. We were struck that this name represented an advance both in freedom from controversy and in clarity.
"A little later, David Kessler told us about the plan for a new UCSF building to advance regeneration research. We all thought this project would be a good opportunity to change the focus on the original stem cell name to something that sounded more approachable and less problematic."
He added, "As soon as possible, I called Bob Klein to get his OK for our entering into CIRM's name territory; he had no problem with this. However, I suggested a slight name modification for the UCSF Institute, to change the term regenerative to regeneration. To my ear the word regenerative sounded too much like heavy machinery. I was glad that Bob immediately agreed. So that is where we are now."
Support for Collaboration
At UCSF, Kriegstein noted, researchers are continuing to expand their work and to explore stem cell science from different angles. A new building is intended to support interaction between these different endeavors.
Scientists working to create insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells to treat diabetes will be located in labs near one another, in so-called clusters. But they also will likely be based near a cluster of scientists working to create neurons to treat such brain diseases as Parkinson's disease, because stem cells undergo nearly identical molecular signaling on the path to becoming both cell types.
Likewise, one scientist's expertise regarding the bone marrow's blood-forming stem cells, which she is exploring as a treatment for blood cancers, makes it likely that she will be based near scientists interested in using the cells for a different purpose -- to fuse with liver cells, with an eye toward regenerating diseased livers and other tissues.
Scientists who focus on broad phenomena of cell development, such as signaling molecules, rather than on particular diseases, will also be strategically based. A scientist who focuses on sonic hedgehog, which plays a key role in the differentiation of neural stem cells, will likely be based near scientists interested in treating brain diseases.
"They'll attend the same symposia and lab meetings and interact informally," said Kriegstein.
The opportunity to work within this environment, said Kriegstein, will support the recent and future recruitment of premier young stem cell scientists to the faculty.
Opportunity to Expand Research
A new building will play a critical role in enabling UCSF scientists to expand their human embryonic stem cell studies on campus. For the last three years, scientists have been conducting this research off of University property, due to federal funding restrictions that severely restrict the ability to carry out research involving human embryos in federally funded buildings. Most university labs are supported in part by federal funds.
One lab has been carrying out its research 30 miles away from the Parnassus Campus, at Geron Corp., which funds part of its research. Another lab has been conducting the research in rented space in a former commercial office in San Francisco. During this time, the labs have derived a total of 11 new lines of human embryonic stem cells.
In order to bring this research back to the UCSF campus as soon as possible, UCSF is currently renovating space - without federal funds -- within an existing building on the Parnassus Campus. This renovated laboratory, expected to be completed by late this summer, will be the home of the UCSF Human Embryonic Stem Cell Center, co-directed by Renee Reijo Pera, PhD, UCSF associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and Susan Fisher, PhD, UCSF professor of cell and tissue biology.
With the planned construction of a building, however, there will be the opportunity to expand the human embryonic stem cell research program beyond the renovated space, allowing for additional scientists to carry out studies, and for scientists based at the Center to work in tandem with those in the new building.
Thus, scientists studying somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning, in the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Center, will be able to collaborate with numerous scientists in the new building who are interested in cell reprogramming.
"This is a very exciting time in the history of UCSF's program, and the field overall," said Kriegstein. "UCSF's rich environment of discovery has led to major breakthroughs in our understanding of how cells progress from undifferentiated stem cells toward the specialized cells that together form the different organs in our body. Moreover, scientists are starting to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of tissue and organ development, and the cell physiological basis of many degenerative diseases.
"The convergence of these advances in developmental biology and stem cell research has created a new paradigm in clinical medicine, where treatments for traumatic and degenerative disorders can involve the regeneration of injured tissues or organs. UCSF is at the forefront of this advance. With a tradition of excellence in clinical care and the infrastructure to conduct clinical trials in virtually every clinical arena, the Institute is poised to transfer basic research advances into patient therapies," he added. "We are extremely grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Dolby for supporting us," Kriegstein said.
UCSF is a leading university that consistently defines health care worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences, and providing complex patient care.