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California Stem Cell Agency Approves $150M In Grants To Fight Diseases

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BURLINGAME (KCBS) — The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine decided on Thursday to approve $150 million in grants for fighting deadly diseases.

According to the institute, eight grants were issued to researchers throughout the state. Three of the grants went to teams at UC Davis, while teams at Stanford University received two. Newark-based StemCells Inc. also received a grant. The remaining grants went to teams at UCLA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Awards from the institute ranged from $14.1 million to $20 million.

The grants will go towards researching therapies for several diseases and disorders, including Huntington’s disease, osteoporosis, spinal cord injury and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

Researchers, patients and parents addressed the 29-member governing board of the state’s stem cell agency before Thursday’s vote at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Burlingame, voicing support for the grants.

UC Davis Stem Cell Program Director Dr. Jan Nolta said the money would allow them to start clinical trials for Huntington’s disease, which causes neurons in the brain to die slowly over the course of about 10 years.

At times the testimony was emotional with researchers speaking about patients that would most likely loose their ability to walk due to their disease.

Others spoke hopefully about the developing therapies that would hopefully keep the brain healthy.

22-year old Matt Austin, who was diagnosed with Huntington’s three years ago, said he would be first in line for those trials.

“The hope of something with this grant, to have that hope for the cure and to have that money to pay for things and to have the human trials go through is just such an amazing thing,” Austin said.

In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 71, which provided $3 billion in funding for research at state universities as well as research institutions. It also allowed for the creation of entities to make grants and to provide loans for stem cell research.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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