by Buck Institute

Buck Institute Receives $20.5 Million for New Stem Cell Building

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded $20.5 million to the Buck Institute for Age Research to build a “CIRM Center of Excellence” on its Novato campus.  The CIRM award would provide seed money for the institute’s second research facility. The award requires the institute to raise an additional $20.5 million to fund the $41 million building.

“We are grateful and proud that CIRM has so much respect for our scientific program as well as our vision and plans for the new facility,” said James Kovach, MD, JD, President and COO of the Buck Institute. “We are working hard to identify all potential sources of funding that would allow us to maximize this opportunity that has so much potential benefit for the future health of Californians.”  CIRM, which was established in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, is expected to sign contracts with awardees by July 30th, although that date can be changed at the discretion of CIRM’s governing board. Other organizations receiving funding for new facilities include Stanford University, University of Southern California, the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine and eight University of California facilities in San Francisco, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Merced and Santa Barbara.

The Buck’s proposed 65,708 square foot building would add to the Institute’s existing 185,000 square foot research facility. It would be the second of four research buildings approved in the Buck Institute’s master plan. The facility would be built within two years and provide space for as many as 12 new principal investigators and their laboratories working primarily in stem cell research. This would result in approximately 40% of the institute’s principal investigators working in stem cell and related research.

“The Buck Institute is making significant contributions to stem cell research,” said Robert Klein, Chair of the Governing Board of CIRM. “We recognize that young institutes, like the Buck, do not have the resources of our older, larger grantees. I, along with some of my colleagues, have made a personal commitment to help the Buck succeed in establishing this new Center of Excellence and to help the Buck in fund raising to ensure it succeeds in establishing this new Center of Excellence."

“We believe that human embryonic stem cell research will be critical for understanding human aging and its related disorders, and we welcome public support for this undertaking,” said David Greenberg, MD, PhD, Vice President of Special Research at the Buck Institute.  “Our program will be focused on identifying ways that stem cells can be used for diagnosis and treatment of conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,  Huntington’s disease, as well as stroke, cancer, and possibly arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and motor neuron diseases.”

CIRM estimates it would cost  it would cost $608 dollars per square foot (not including equipment) to build the new facility on the Buck campus, significantly below the average $934 per square foot construction cost among all 12 grantees. “The fact that the Institute has already paid for land entitlements and has approved architectural and design plans in place contributes to the lower cost and would enable the Buck to have the facility built and online within the two year time frame required by CIRM,” said Buck Institute Vice President of Facilities Ralph O’Rear,  who is also project lead . “This is a tremendous opportunity to engage the public in the institute’s growth,” said E. Lewis Reid, Chair of the Buck Institute Board of Trustees. “The Buck Institute has made amazing progress in its short nine year history and is uniquely positioned to deliver on the promise of stem cell research for our aging population,” Reid said.

The Buck Institute’s annual budget is $32 million; 59% of its revenue comes from federal grants, 18% from private philanthropy and foundation grants, 18% from the Buck Trust allocation and the remaining 5% from other revenue sources including interest and technology. “There has been a general misconception that the Buck Institute has no need for public support because of its name and its history with the Buck Trust,” said Victoria Silverman, Vice President of External Affairs at the Buck Institute. “That has never been as far from the truth than it is now. We need the public to join us as partners as we strive to build this Center of Excellence.”

Last year CIRM awarded $4.1 million to the Buck Institute for a shared research laboratory which is currently under construction. The new lab, which will be a regional hub for human embryonic stem cell research and training in Northern California, is scheduled to open in mid-June.

The Buck Institute’s proposed research program for the Center of Excellence is guided by the promise that human embryonic stem cells may provide a model system to study and understand the process of human aging and age-related disease.   This promise is based on the unique properties of human embryonic stem cells: undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells do not age, but can differentiate into mortal body cells. The specific aims are to use human embryonic stem cells or their differentiated progeny to study how cells self-renew and to examine processes involved in the biology of aging including DNA repair, genome integrity and programmed cell death. The long-term goal of the program is to unravel the mysteries of aging and age-related human diseases by understanding the fundamental biological process of aging in appropriate human cell models.

Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.

Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO

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