UC San Diego gets $100-million gift for stem cell research


Thanks to a $100-million donation, UC San Diego will be creating a new clinical center to study how the use of stem cells may help cure or alleviate leukemia, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems, officials announced Monday.

The gift is from T. Denny Sanford, a South Dakota businessman who made a fortune in the banking and credit card industry and has been very generous to various healthcare initiatives.

The new Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego will integrate researchers affiliated with the UC medical center there and several other nearby organizations in the La Jolla area, including the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Scripps Research Institute and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.


“Every day, scientists learn more about the regenerative powers of stem cells, which tantalize with their potential to treat, cure, even prevent, myriad afflictions, including cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease and spinal cord injury.... I believe we’re on the cusp of turning years of hard-earned knowledge into actual treatments for real people in need. I want this gift to push that reality faster and farther,” Sanford, 77, said in a prepared statement.

UC San Diego already is a major center of stem cell research, and its scientists have garnered nearly $138 million in research grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. That state agency was created in 2004 after voters approved a $3-billion bond measure to aid such research.

Lawrence Goldstein, who is director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program and will be director of the new Sanford Center, said much work has been done to understand the abilities of stem cells. Now, more clinical trials involving humans are “essential to advancing the science and ultimately creating much-needed drugs and therapies,” Goldstein said in a statement.

The new Sanford gift reportedly is the second-largest In UC San Diego’s history, topped only by $110 million given in 2003 by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, to endow the engineering school. Sanford gave $30 million in 2008 for a new building to house a consortium of regenerative medicine in San Diego.


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Twitter: @LarryGordonLAT