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UCLA receives $4 million for stem cell and digestive disease research

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On May 8, UCLA Health System announced that it had received $4 Million from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that will support research for stem cell sciences and digestive diseases. In addition the funds will support the recruitment of key faculty at two research centers: the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at UCLA’s Division of Digestive Diseases.

A $2 million gift to the Broad Stem Cell Research Center will supplement the Broad Foundation’s original 2007 gift of $20 million, which has supported faculty and research and launched the Innovation Award program. That program advances cutting-edge research at the center by giving UCLA stem cell researchers “seed funding” for their research projects. The new gift will enable the continuation of the award program, which has yielded a 10-to-1 return on investment because it resulted in additional funding from other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and more than $200 million in total grants from the state’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

“The Broads’ generous support has been essential to the development of new therapies that are currently in, or very near, clinical trials for treating blindness, sickle cell disease and cancer,” noted Dr. Owen Witte, director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center. He added, “The Broad Stem Cell Research Center’s work, supported by critical philanthropic and other resources, is quickly being translated from basic scientific discoveries into new cellular therapies that will change the practice of medicine and offer future treatment options for diseases thought to be incurable, such as muscular dystrophy, autism and AIDS.”

UCLA notes that the past gifts have enabled its Division of Digestive Diseases, which is one of a handful of such centers, to develop a comprehensive research and clinical enterprise focused on inflammatory bowel disease. The division has earned a major return on the Broad Foundation’s initial investments, the grants have enabled the researchers to obtain $11 million in funding from pharmaceutical companies, the National Institutes of Health and nonprofit foundations. Furthermore, the Broad Foundation’s Broad Medical Research Program has provided more than $600,000 in grants to UCLA researchers over the past decade for the study of inflammatory bowel disease.

The new funds will support the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and research led by Dr. Charalabos, the center’s director. His team conducts research aimed at identifying the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of this group of chronic debilitating diseases, for which there is no cure. They have pioneered research regarding how neuropeptides and hormones contribute to inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as the roles of obesity and fat tissue in their development. The team has created a unique human fat cell and fat tissue biobank, and its research has significant promise for the development of new drug treatments for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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