The Jackson Laboratory has received a $3.4 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state’s stem cell agency, to help speed the development of new therapies for cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases.
The nonprofit Jackson Laboratory, based in Bar Harbor, has a facility in Sacramento that provides research services to the West Coast biomedical community. The Jackson Laboratory—West will use the CIRM grant to develop new mouse models of human disease that can be used to test innovative stem cell treatments.
Jackson Laboratory President and CEO Rick Woychik, Ph.D., says, “Stem cells have tremendous potential for treating human diseases because of their unique capacity to develop into any cell type in the body. However, before stem cell therapies are used in human patients, it is critical to test their efficacy and safety using a research animal that has the relevant disease.”
The laboratory mouse, widely recognized as the premier mammalian model for studying human disease, is the optimal organism for these preclinical studies, Woychik says.
CIRM issued the award as part of a $40.6 million package of new and continuing grants to California universities and public and private research laboratories. The Jackson project is among those CIRM describes as “early translational” and “intended to either lead to a drug candidate for an unmet medical need or address a bottleneck in the development of new therapies.”
Woychik notes that the grant illustrates the value of having established a presence for the Laboratory in California. “Being located in the world’s largest biomedical research community brings us opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to us,” he says. “This grant, like more than 90 percent of our funding, comes from outside Maine.”
Leon Hall, Ph.D., is a program director of The Jackson Laboratory—West group that will develop the new mouse models. While mouse models are available for a wide range of human diseases, Hall says, “The Jackson Laboratory now has immune-deficient mice that support long-term transplantation with human stem cells. This grant will allow us to develop new and more relevant mouse models of disease that can sustain human stem cell engraftment. This should eliminate a major barrier to the translation of basic stem cell research to the clinic.”
Chuck Hewett, Ph.D., Jackson VP and chief operating officer, added that “once these new models are developed, The Jackson Laboratory—West will use its new, state-of-the-art facilities to ensure efficient delivery of these mice within California and to provide services to stem cell investigators to reveal information about disease progression.”
The Jackson Laboratory established JAX—West at a small facility in West Sacramento in 2001. In late 2008 JAX—West moved to a larger facility in Sacramento, with about 85 employees on site. Providing a pathogen-free environment for the laboratory animals, the facility meets the highest federal, state and voluntary standards for animal care, genetic quality control and health status, Hewett notes.
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