Peter Donovan and Ping Wang
Peter Donovan, left, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, and Dr. Ping Wang, medicine professor, were approved for $3.3 million over three years to enhance a stem cell training program. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

California stem cell scientists will fan out into classes and lecture halls in partnership with research institutions, patient groups and educators around the world Wednesday, Sept. 23, as part of Stem Cell Awareness Day. Sponsored by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state stem cell agency, the event will involve about 40 high school science classrooms and 2,500 students statewide, and UC Irvine will host a panel discussion and stem cell lab tour for K-12 educators.

“Stem cell science is advancing as quickly as it is because of pressure from grassroots campaigns that has created momentum to secure government funding and challenged researchers to think differently about the pace of bringing basic discoveries to the clinic,” says Alan Trounson, CIRM president. “Stem Cell Awareness Day was created as a way to spread information and excitement about this field and to fertilize those grass roots to keep the pressure on everyone to further accelerate the science.”

Over the past year, UCI has accomplished much in the field:

  • In January, a therapy developed at UCI that allowed paralyzed rats to walk again became the world’s first embryonic stem cell treatment approved for human testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the therapy – based on research led by Hans Keirstead, co-director of the UCI Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center – for a clinical trial in patients with acute spinal cord injury.
  • In March, Keirstead, also with the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, briefed the U.S. Congress on the state of stem cell research, stressing the need for collaboration between academia and industry.
  • In October 2008, UCI broke ground on a new stem cell research building that will strengthen and unify the fast-growing field on campus and throughout Southern California.
  • In early 2009, UCI received a renewal of its CIRM-funded training grant to provide training and education for the next generation of stem cell scientists.
  •  UCI has received $59.8 million in CIRM funding for stem cell research, the fourth-highest total among state institutions.