24 scientists get state's first stem cell research grants

May 18, 2007|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,sun reporter

Twenty-four Maryland biomedical researchers - more than half of them affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University - were named yesterday by the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission as recipients of the first state grants under the Maryland Stem Cell Research Act of 2006.

Although specifics of the proposed investigations were not released, the term "embryonic stem cells" is present in the titles of 10 of the 24 planned investigations.

The winners were selected based on scientific merit from among 86 applications seeking $81 million, after a peer review by scientists from outside Maryland.

The $14.5 million state fund was established last year by the legislature to advance stem cell research and to promote the development of the state's biotechnology and life sciences industry. An additional $23 million was appropriated during this year's legislative session to fund awards in 2008.

"By funding basic and translational research with high scientific merit, it is our goal to help support cutting edge science in the state, and bring new treatments to patients," the commission's chairwoman, Linda Powers, said in a news release. "The commission is very much looking forward to receiving an even broader pool of high-quality applications in the next cycle."

Under the legislation, all of the work must be done in Maryland by Maryland-based institutions.

In addition to the 15 Hopkins grants, the commission selected eight proposals from scientists affiliated with the University of Maryland and one from a private company.

None of the awards will be finalized, the commission said, until contract terms and amounts are negotiated and agreements are signed. Researchers must also first obtain required ethical approvals from their institutions.

Seven of the proposals, eligible for up to $500,000 a year for three years, involve ideas that have some history in the laboratory. For example, Dr. Angelo H. All, of Hopkins' Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute, was recommended for a grant to study the use of embryonic stem cells in treating spinal cord injuries in a rat model.

An additional 17 proposals, worth up to $100,000 a year for two years, went to investigators new to stem cell research, or those exploring new ideas in the field. One of those will go to Dr. John Fisher, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, for work on the use of stem cells for regenerating human facial bone.

The stem cell research commission is an independent unit of the Maryland Technology Development Corp., created by the legislature in 1998 to foster business development across Maryland.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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