Newswise — The Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative, comprised of three leading New York City biomedical research institutions — Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Medical College of Cornell University — has announced the first wave of stem cell research projects to be funded through a $50 million gift from The Starr Foundation. The gift was announced on May 23, 2005.

Seventeen projects have been approved for funding for a total of $6.7 million over two years. The Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative specifically sought grant applications for support of highly collaborative new research projects in the stem cell arena, and all of the projects involve collaborations among research scientists from at least two of the three institutions. They will explore the basic biology or therapeutic potential of stem cells derived from humans or model organisms.

The goal of the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative is to support stem cell research broadly, including studies of human embryonic stem cells (both those registered by the federal government and those that are not) as well as adult, fetal, and cancer stem cells, as well as stem cells from experimental animals.

Earlier this year, the Initiative awarded funds to each of the three institutions for development and expansion of core research facilities to derive, maintain, and characterize human embryonic stem cells.

"We are very pleased with the breadth and quality of these projects," said Kathleen Pickering, Executive Director, Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative. "The collaborative nature of these grants provides new opportunities for faculty to work together across the three institutions on diverse stem cell projects, ranging from basic research to those that lay the groundwork for therapeutic approaches," she said.

The review and selection process for the projects included researchers from each of the Tri-Institutional partners, four external reviewers with background and expertise in various aspects of stem cell sciences, and the Executive Committee of the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative.

In accordance with the Guidelines for Stem Cell Research issued by the National Academy of Sciences, a number of the projects selected for funding under the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative will be reviewed by an Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee (ESCRO) because they entail use of human embryonic stem cells.

List of projects approved for funding: Alexander Tarakhovsky (RU)Co-Investigators: Ali Brivanlou (RU); Derek Sant'Angelo (MSK) A functional human immune system in the mouse

Thomas Sakmar (RU)Co-PI: Ching-Hwa Sung (WMC) Role of a novel G protein-AGS2 / Tctex-1 interaction in controlling stem cell fate

Urs Rutishauser (MSK)Co-PIs: Lorenz Studer (MSK); Flint Beal (WMC) Improvement of ES cell-derived DA neuron grafts using PSA-NCAM

Barry Coller (RU)Co-PI: Shahin Rafii (WMC) Platelet therapy using ES cell-derived megakaryocytes

Robert Benezra (MSK)Co-PI: Peter Mombaerts (RU) Role of Id in adult olfactory epithelial stem cells

Stewart Anderson (WMC)Co-Investigators: Neil Harrison (WMC); Lorenz Studer (MSK) Derivation of cortical GABAergic interneurons from mouse and human ES cells

Shahin Rafii (WMC)Co-Investigator: Malcolm Moore (MSK); Zev Rosenwaks (WMC) Identification of molecular and cellular pathways involved in the co-differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into angiomyogenic tissues

Peter Mombaerts (RU)Co-Investigator: Lorenz Studer (MSK) Differentiation of olfactory neurons from embryonic or olfactory stem cells

Hermann Steller (RU)Co-PI: Shahin Rafii (WMC) Enhancing self-renewal of human stem cells through manipulation of apoptosis

Thomas Lee (WMC)Co-Investigators: David Abramson (MSK); David Cobrinik (WMC) Identification of a retinal progenitor cell niche in retinoblastoma tumors

Paul Feinstein (RU)Co-PI: Anna-Katerina Hadjantonakis (MSK) Dynamic remodeling of differentiated cells by fusion with embryonic stem cells

Scott Coonrod (WMC)Co-Investigator: David Allis (RU) Functional analysis of the mammalian oocyte reprogramming complex

Lorenz Studer (MSK)Co-Investigators: Viviane Tabar (MSK); Neil Harrison (WMC) Strategies to enhance the in vivo efficacy of human ES derived dopamine neurons

Viviane Tabar (MSK)Co-Investigators: Lorenz Studer (MSK); Neil Harrison (WMC) Radiation damage repair via human ES cells

Chris Sander (MSK)Co-Investigators: Lorenz Studer (MSK); Thomas Tuschl (RU) The role of microRNAs in human embryonic stem cells

Sidney Strickland (RU)Co-PI: Lorenz Studer (MSK) The use of stem cells for treatment of peripheral neuropathy

Michel Sadelain (MSK) Co-PIs: Malcolm Moore (MSK); Gianpiero Palermo (WMC); Co-Investigators: Pat Giardina (WMC); Zev Rosenwaks (WMC); Lorenz Studer (MSK)Laying the foundations for integrated therapeutic cloning and globin gene transfer to treat b-thalassemia

*MSK = Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; RU = The Rockefeller University; WMC = Weill Cornell Medical College

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