Health Center Researchers Awarded State Stem Cell Funds

From left, Drs. Xiaofang Wang and Ren-He Xu of ImStem Biotechnology, a UConn spin out developing novel therapies using stem cells, that was recently issued a patent for human embryonic stem cell derived mesenchymal stem cells and the method of producing the stem cells. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health File Photo)
From left, Drs. Xiaofang Wang and Ren-He Xu of ImStem Biotechnology, a UConn spin out developing novel therapies using stem cells, that was recently issued a patent for human embryonic stem cell derived mesenchymal stem cells and the method of producing the stem cells. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health File Photo)
ImStem Biotechnology Inc,
From left, ImStem Biotechnology’s Drs. Xiaofang Wang and Ren-He Xu were awarded $1.1 million in state stem cell funding. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

Nine scientists at the University of Connecticut Health Center received grant awards Monday totaling $4.5 million from the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Program, making UConn the largest recipient of the $9.8 million total grants awarded this year.

Included in the UConn awards was $1.1 million for ImStem, a company launched from the Health Center stem cell core facility and directed by Dr. Ren-He Xu. The goal of ImStem is to explore new approaches to utilizing human embryonic stem cell lines for future clinical applications, such as developing a treatment for multiple sclerosis. ImStem is the second UConn-launched company to be funded by the state’s stem cell fund. The first was Chondrogenics, Inc., a company seeking to develop a stem cell-based treatment for cartilage repair and osteoarthritis.

UConn investigators and their companies have been awarded $37.25 million since the state stem cell funding program was launched in 2006.

“This support has allowed us to develop world-class stem cell research projects and to contribute to the state’s economic development through Bioscience Connecticut,” says Marc Lalande, director of UConn’s Stem Cell Institute and its Institute for Systems Genomics. “The timing of these awards couldn’t be better given the current reductions in federal funding for biomedical research.”

Two Health Center researchers received grants of $750,000 each:  Christopher Heinen, assistant professor of medicine, for his research using human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to test the significance of hereditary cancer-associated variants; and Kristen Martins-Taylor, assistant professor of genetics and developmental biology, for her research uncovering molecular pathways disrupted in Prader-Willi Syndrome.

Here is a complete list of state stem cell funds awarded to UConn researchers:

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