USC breaks ground on stem cell research center

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

USC on Wednesday became the first of 12 institutions in the state to break ground on a taxpayer-funded facility for stem cell research.

USC officials, state health authorities and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended the groundbreaking for the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research on USC's Health Science Campus in Boyle Heights.

This "is a very important step in a mission set by the voters of California to place the state at the forefront of stem cell research," said Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, awarded USC nearly $27 million for the new facility.

The CIRM, established because voters passed Proposition 71 in 2004 to borrow and spend $3 billion over 10 years to support stem cell research, awards funds to educational institutions for such activity.

The institute's award supplemented a $30-million gift made in 2006 by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, said Meghan Lewit, an institute spokeswoman. The remaining funds for the $80-million project will be raised through individuals and private foundations, and officials hope to open the center in 2010.

Once completed, the five-story, 80,000-square-foot Broad CIRM Center will house basic and clinical researchers working on stem cell research for the treatment of a wide spectrum of diseases, Lewit said.

Researchers will be trying to determine whether certain cells are predisposed to becoming cancerous; working to identify cells capable of reversing damage from eye diseases, cardiovascular disease and liver disease; developing new drugs that can accelerate tissue repair or stop cancer stem cells from growing; and investigating the possibility of making stem cells from adult tissue with all the capabilities of embryonic stem cells.


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