Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey

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State antes up $10M to study stem cells
Rutgers and UMDNJ to get research labs

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The state's science agency awarded more than $10 million yesterday to support stem cell research, doubling its investment in the cutting-edge field and broadening its support of inquiries into human embryonic stem cells.

The funds provided by the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, officials said, will create two research labs, one at Rutgers University and another at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The commission also will support the work of 16 researchers from both university and nonprofit institutions.

Gov. Jon Corzine said the grants show New Jersey is serious about investing in science, a stance that can only benefit its residents. "These investments pave the way for the discovery and advancement of groundbreaking treatments that have the potential to improve millions of lives," he said.

The commission grants are the latest development in a state plan, years in the making, to create a vibrant, world-class stem cell research community in New Jersey. Earlier this week, members of the Assembly Budget Committee gave preliminary approval to borrow $450 million to fund the search for medical breakthroughs using stem cells. If approved by voters in November, the state would be authorized to award up to $45 million a year in grants for the research.

As a centerpiece of the plan, members of the state Economic Development Authority agreed last week to spend $9.1 million on pre-development expenses for a proposed Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey in downtown New Brunswick. State leaders also enhanced the science agency's role by beefing up its budget, giving it twice as much money as last year to spend on stem cell research.
Stem cells are amorphous cells that can be prodded to become nearly anything, from skin to heart to liver cells. The use of embryonic stem cells is controversial for this work because, though frozen and headed for disposal, they must be destroyed in the process. Adult stem cells, drawn from placentas, cord blood and fatty tissue, do not raise ethical hackles but are not as adept at change, nor as prolific.

Rutgers will receive $3 million for a "core" facility where scientists will work with others from Reprogenetics, LLC, a Livingston laboratory specializing in a cell technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. Together, they will study human embryonic stem cells to develop therapies for diseases affecting the central nervous system. Researchers at UMDNJ and Rutgers will collaborate, using $2.5 million to show how stem cells become other entities.
The $5 million going to 16 single research grants, selected from 73 proposals, will support work on human embryonic stem cell research, cord blood stem cells and projects aimed at finding treatments for cancers. Institutions receiving grants will include Rutgers, UMDNJ, Princeton University and the Coriell Institute in Camden.