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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces recipients of $5 million in new state stem cell research funding
Funds awarded to seven state university stem cell research projects

CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that seven projects at Illinois public universities will share $5 million in new state funding for the life-saving work of stem cell research.  After President George Bush in July vetoed legislation that would have expanded scientists' access to new, healthy uncontaminated stem cell lines, Gov. Blagojevich directed $5 million to continue funding stem cell research in Illinois in fiscal year 2007.
 
“The promise of stem cell research is unlimited, and countless lives that hang in the balance.  It’s clear we can’t count on the President to support stem cell research, and lawmakers in Springfield have yet to act on a proposal that would provide $100 million over 5 years for research. So we are doing what we can with the resources we have to fund stem cell research. I’m confident that the seven recipients of this funding will make strides towards curing diseases ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
 
Gov. Blagojevich allocated $5 million of state funds from an administrative line in the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) budget to fund stem cell research in Illinois.  Recipients were selected from proposals previously submitted to the Illinois Department of Pubic Health’s Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI), but not funded, based on recommendations from an outside panel of stem cell research experts and bioethicists. 
 
Funding was awarded to the following institutions:
 
  • $1,100,000 – Jasti Rao, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria for research into understanding how stem cells can help repair spinal cord injury, heart failure and neurological diseases, leading to new therapeutic approaches.  The project will determine the behavior of blood stem cells in various environmental situations such as various types of cancer.
 
  • $1,000,000 – Lawrence Schook, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for research to evaluate and introduce new technologies for clinical-grade human stem cell therapies for the repair or replacement of diseased, damaged or nonfunctional organs and tissues using one’s own or donor stem cells.
 
  • $750,000 – Dengping Yin, University of Illinois, Chicago for use of human umbilical cord blood stem cells to develop beta cells for treatment of diabetes.
 
  • $250,000 – Matthew Stewart, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for research to expand the use of certain stem cells for experiments for clinical regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues.
 
  • $400,000 – Fei Wang, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for research to provide new tools for studying the molecular mechanisms underlying human embryonic stem cell fate determination in order to contribute to effective strategies for tissue repair and regeneration.
 
  • $400,000 – Sara Becker-Catania, University of Illinois, Chicago for research to promote the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into a type of cell that will help patients with Multiple Sclerosis.
 
  • $1,100,000 – Stuart Adler, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale to create a stem cell institute with the purpose of conducting scientific research projects, establishing core facilities, providing technical and ethical training, and establishing outreach to patients and families.
 
“The University of Illinois is gratified by the receipt of these grants and is proud of the faculty researchers engaged in breakthrough, life-saving discoveries,” said University of Illinois President B. Joseph White.  “The University of Illinois has a large and consequential presence in Illinois, the nation, and the world.  The grants announced today and last April to researchers on our Chicago, Urbana, and Peoria campuses reflect the University’s statewide reach and impact on modern health care.”
 
“Since its creation in 1970, the SIU School of Medicine has worked to improve health care outcomes in central and southern Illinois through education, research and service.  It has successfully trained and placed hundreds of physicians in rural areas, while also developing significant medical research capabilities for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases,” said SIU President Glenn Poshard.  “This grant will serve to broaden that research, and hopefully hasten results for citizens in medically underserved areas of Illinois.”
 
“We are very grateful to the Governor for his support of these essential research endeavors,” said Sylvia Manning, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). “These grants reflect the excellence and dedication of our faculty. The promise of the post-genomic era is to identify disease before it happens and prevent its occurrence. Stem cell research provides a promising new avenue to discover new and practical treatment approaches that can have a real impact on the lives of our patients and communities.”
 
Health care advocates joined the Governor today to voice their support for stem cell research and the hope it holds for people struggling with diseases like Parkinson’s and Autism.
 
“The Parkinson's Disease Foundation congratulates Gov. Blagojevich for taking a leadership role on this very important issue and we hope this will be an example to many other states - and to the white house,” said Robin Elliott, Executive Director, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
 
“The Autism Society of Illinois believes that this avenue of research holds tremendous promise for children and adults with autism,” said Peter King, Legislative Chair, Autism Society of Illinois.  “The rising number of those diagnosed with autism today is overwhelming, and Illinois cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in its search for the cause, effective treatment and cure of this devastating disability.  ASI supports all efforts that work towards providing the answers to unlocking autism and other disabilities.”
 
This past April, the Governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes in announcing ten grants worth a total of $10 million for life-saving stem cell research at several Illinois hospitals and research institutions.
 
“Stem cell research has the potential to find cures for life-threatening diseases and today’s investment puts us closer to doing that,” said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn.
 
“In the face of federal inaction, Governor Blagojevich has shown leadership in pushing for long-term funding of stem cell research.  By doing so, he has restored the hopes of thousands of families in Illinois who suffer debilitating and deadly diseases,” said Comptroller Dan Hynes.
 
Last summer by Executive Order, Governor Blagojevich and Comptroller Dan Hynes created the IRMI, making Illinois the first state in the Midwest, and only the fourth state in the nation, to commit public funds to stem cell research.  The IRMI program is designed to issue grants for stem cell research to study therapies, protocols, medical procedures, possible cures for, and potential mitigations of major diseases, injuries, and orphan diseases; to support all stages of the process of developing cures from laboratory research through successful clinical trials; and to establish the appropriate regulatory standards for research and facilities development.
 
Researching and studying stem cells allows scientists and doctors to better understand what causes serious medical illnesses and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal cord injury, stroke, and heart disease, in hopes of discovering new ways to treat or even cure them.  Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of healthy new cells in the body.  As described by the National Institutes of Health, they act like an internal repair system for the body.  Stem cells can divide to replenish other cells for as long as the body is alive.  When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell like a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
 
Studying stem cells allows doctors to analyze how cells transform into other cells.  Many of the most serious illnesses or birth defects are caused by problems during the transformation process.  Understanding the process better may help doctors discover how to prevent, treat or cure illnesses and conditions.
 
“The Southern Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute at SIU School of Medicine will serve Illinois by exploring stem cells as potential new treatments and cures, bringing together scientists and physicians working both in Carbondale and Springfield,” said funding recipient Stuart Adler, M.D., Ph.D., Director of SIU’s new institute.  “Our effort will include not only research projects in neurobiology, in regenerating bones and cartilage, and in using cord blood stem cells, but also will enable new projects and prepare a new generation of doctors and researchers with the necessary scientific and ethical training.”
 
“Our preliminary studies have demonstrated that stem cells behave differently in cancer and spinal cord injury, especially in relation to apoptosis.  Further, stem cells completely regressed pre-established brain tumors when intravenously injected.  This multi-disciplinary project will include a unique collaboration with basic and clinical faculty to study the role of umbilical cord blood stem cells in various types of cancers (breast, prostate, lung, leukemia, melanoma, etc.) and in spinal cord injury - in both in vitro and in vivo models,” said another recipient, Jasti Rao, Ph. D., Professor and Head, Department of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria.  “We anticipate that these results will substantially augment our understanding of how these stem cells chase and attach to these tumor cells, and how these stem cells repair damaged tissue in spinal cord injuries.  Thus, the information should be of help in developing new therapeutic approaches in these areas.”
 
“We received a total of 24 applications for stem cell research funding,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Eric E. Whitaker.  “Thanks to the Governor allocating another $5 million, we’re able to continue supporting the research being done and award funds to another seven research institutions.  We look forward to the groundbreaking medical advancements for many debilitating diseases that stem cell research will yield.”


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