University of Miami gains $10M to expand stem cell R&D

The University of Miami is the latest academic institution to gain a large investment designed to boost its stem cell research work, and also hopefully generate more game-changing results. In this case, the Starr Foundation is giving the university's Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and its Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) a $10 million grant to help boost its pipeline of stem cell discoveries in development as future treatments. Of particular interest: the ISCI's efforts to rebuild damaged hearts.

"We wanted to help further that research as it moved into clinical applications," the Starr Foundation's Chairman Maurice Greenberg said in a statement.

At least 13 clinical trials are under way at the ISCI, looking at the use of stem cells to treat congestive heart failure. But trials are also testing the treatment on skin wounds, burns, pulmonary fibrosis and stroke, according to the university. One, the POSEIDON trial, is looking at the effects of stem cells taken directly from the patient to treat heart failure compared with those used from an unrelated donor. Institute director Joshua Hare is conducting the study and results are expected later this year, the university said.

All of that cash is also set to broaden preclinical and clinical stem cell research. What's more, the investment (plus a steady growth in National Institutes of Health funding), existing technology transfer programs and other efforts to raise money from interested donors will keep the ISCI viable through the end of the decade, Hare said as part of the university's announcement.

Expect more announcements in the coming months about academic institutions either launching or enhancing their stem cell research efforts. Despite years of setbacks, the field is clearly gaining more attention, at least at the academic/research level. But there is pushback, depending on the market and the type of cell being used. Embryonic stem cells, for example, remain controversial and highly political. The University of Michigan, which continues to develop new embryonic stem cell lines, is at risk of losing $7 million in state funding if school officials don't disclose how many embryos they use for research.

- read the release