State Awards $5.7 Million for Stem Cell Research by UMDNJ Scientists
$800K additional in matching funds for start-up technologies
NEWARK — UMDNJ researchers received more than $5.7 million in Stem Cell Research Grants from the NJ Commission on Science and Technology (NJCST) to fund crucial lines of inquiry on projects that include bioengineered human stem cells, new therapies for heart disease and lung cancer, and the development of techniques that use stem cells to deliver biotherapeutics to attack cancerous tumors.
"The size and scope of these research grants underscore the quality of the research conducted at UMDNJ," states Kathleen W. Scotto, PhD, vice president of research for UMDNJ and senior associate dean for research at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "We are exceedingly proud of the work underway in the stem cell arena and look forward to working collaboratively with our colleagues at Rutgers University and throughout the state to gain new insights and develop new treatments for a number of devastating diseases."
Along with the awards for new research, the NJCST provided a $500,000 grant that matches the amount the Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC, recently invested in Snowdon, Inc., a start-up company launched by a prominent UMDNJ researcher that pioneered new procedures to streamline the drug discovery process. The NJCST awards also include a $300,000 matching grant to the UMNDJ Office of Patents and Licensing to encourage the development of start-up technologies at the university.
“Our first investment was in Snowdon, Inc., because we believed that this UMDNJ start-up had unique possibilities and potential and was a great example of the outstanding technology coming out of the University,” said James M. Golubieski, president of Foundation Venture Capital Group. “We are very proud to have provided our $500,000 investment, which then qualified Snowdon to apply for a $500,000 match from the NJCST.”
The Foundation Venture Capital Group was formed in 2006 as an affiliate of the New Jersey Health Foundation to invest in commercially viable new start-up companies developing technology at UMDNJ.
The NJCST received 73 applications for individual research grants and three core facilities proposals. Other institutions receiving grants were Rutgers University, Princeton University and the Coriell Institute in Camden. The following are the UMDNJ research projects that received funding from the NJCST:
Core Facilities Grants
Dr. Patrizia Cassacia-Bonnefil, of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ-RWJMS), $2,518,857 for “ Bioengineering Human Embryonic Stem Cells.” This grant is to develop efficient gene transfer methods and bioengineering techniques for repair of neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. UMDNJ is working in collaboration with Rutgers University on this project.
Individual Research Grants
Dr. Tulin Budak-Alpdogan, of UMDNJ-RWJMS and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ ), $300,000 for “Post-Transplant High-Dose MTX/ARA-c Consolidation: A Drug Resistance Gene Transfer.” This pilot study will transfer a group of novel drug resistance genes into the stem cells of the patients for myeloprotection and better chemotherapeutic drug tolerance. This will be the first clinical study that will evaluate both the therapeutic benefits of dose-escalating post-transplant treatment and the safety of the gene transfer technology.
Dr. Diego Fraidenraich, of UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, $300,000 for “Stem Cell Based Therapy in Mst1 Transgenic Mice, a Mouse Model of Cardiomyopathy.” This project will examine how stem cells can be used in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
Dr. John Langenfeld, of UMDNJ-RWJMS, $300,000 for “Identification of Tumor Stem Cells in Lung Cancer.” This proposal will identify and provide a better understanding of the biology of lung cancer cells that behave like stem cells. These data are likely to lead to new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of lung cancer.
Dr. Shaohua Li, of UMDNJ-RWJMS , $298,246 for “Vasculogenesis from Embryonic Stem Cells.” This research will study the integrin signaling pathway that directs the formation of primitive vascular tissues from multipotential embryonic stem cells.
Dr. Randall McKinnon, of UMDNJ-RWJMS, $300,000 for “Stem Cell Therapeutics: PDGF-Directed Glial Migration.” This study will focus on engineering stem cells so that they home into a site of injury for brain repair.
Dr. Daniel Medina, of UMDNJ-RWJMS and CINJ, $300,000 for “Identification and characterization of Mantle Cell Lymphoma Stem Cells.” This project will test the hypothesis that Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) is composed in part by MCL stem/progenitor cells that act as "seeds" and that these cells have the capacity to give rise to the bulk tumor and are responsible for patient relapse.
Dr. Robert Nagele, of UMDNJ - NJ Institute for Successful Aging, $297,080 for “Genomic Stability, Chromatin Remodeling and Differentiation Potential of Mesenchymal Stem Cells.” Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are rare, adult somatic stem cells with enormous clinical potential, but require extensive cultivation in the laboratory prior to clinical use. So far, MSCs have shown a limited lifespan and may lose some stem cell characteristics relatively early during culture. This study will look to shed new light on how and why these changes occur to ensure the development of safe protocols for their therapeutic use.
Dr. Sidney Pestka, of UMDNJ-RWJMS , $300,000 for “Use of Stem Cells for Delivery of Biotherapeutics for the Treatment of Cancers.” Many cytokines such as the interferons are remarkably effective in destroying tumor cells in culture, but are difficult to apply to cancers in patients because of dose limitations due to their side effects when administered systemically. The goal of this project is to utilize stem cells to deliver biotherapeutics to minimize the side effects, thus enabling these molecules to treat cancers.
Dr. Yufang Shi, of UMDNJ-RWJMS, $300,000 for “Mechanisms of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Induced Immunosuppression.” This research will investigate how adult stem cells affect immune responses and develop protocols for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and maintenance of transplanted tissue and organs.
Dr. Dale Woodbury, of UMDNJ-RWJMS, $268,533 for “Plasticity of Amnion-Derived Stem Cells In Vitro and In Vivo.”
Dr. Megqing Xiang, of UMDNJ-RWJMS , $300,000 for “Controlled Differentiation of Inner Retinal Cell Types from Stem Cells.
To request an interview with any of the UMDNJ researchers, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.