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Gladstone, Roddenberry Foundation open new stem cell center
SAN FRANCISCO—The Gladstone Institutes and the Roddenberry Foundation have inaugurated a new stem cell facility, opening the doors to the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Gladstone. The unit was founded thanks to an extremely generous gift of $5 million from the foundation established in honor of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
"This gift is our largest to date, and with it, we hope to help accelerate advances in biomedical research," Gene Roddenberry's son Rod Roddenberry, co-founder and chair of the board of directors of the Roddenberry Foundation, said in a press release. "In addition, if our support can inspire one child to become a scientist, one organization to become more charitable, one person to simply invest himself or herself in improving the future of our world, then our foundation can be a catalyst in making the future envisioned through Star Trek a reality."
Gladstone's three main areas of focus are cardiovascular disease, viruses like HIV/AIDS and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Currently, 5.4 million people in the United States alone suffer from Alzheimer's, which comes with an annual price tag of $183 billion, according to an estimate from the Alzheimer's Association. In addition, as the baby boomer population continues to age, the number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer's is expected to have doubled by the year 2050.
Unfortunately, despite the dozens of companies and undertakings targeting this disease, no single disease-modifying therapy exists for Alzheimer's. Steven Finkbeiner, M.D., Ph.D., a senior investigator at Gladstone, notes that it takes, on average, 12 years and as much as $1 billion to develop a drug for neurodegenerative disease.
Stem cell research has been booming in several areas, including the areas of neurodegenerative disease, and the new center will capitalize on that, building on work done by a Gladstone investigator in 2006. Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., a senior investigator at Gladstone, and his Kyoto University team discovered how to reprogram skin cells into cells that could develop into other cells types, similar to embryonic stem cells. These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) became huge in the field of regenerative medicine and remain a staple in stem cell research.
In an effort to build on this technology, the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Gladstone also announced the formation of an agreement with Kyoto University's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), of which Yamanaka is the director. CiRA is involved with drug discovery and regenerative medicine, with a specific focus on induced pluripotency and cellular reprogramming. The partnership will allow for a sharing of materials and knowledge between the two stem cell centers.
"The Roddenberry gift will help us create the human, iPS-based disease models that we need to accelerate the development of drug therapies for a host of devastating diseases, honoring Gene Roddenberry's call to 'live long and prosper,'" Deepak Srivastava, M.D., director of stem cell and cardiovascular research at Gladstone, said in a press release.