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WiCELL earns designation as national stem cell center

September 29, 2003

The WiCell Research Institute (WiCell), a non-profit subsidiary of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), has been named as one of three Exploratory Centers for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in the nation by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. With the designation comes a three-year $1.7 million grant that WiCell will use to further the study of human embryonic stem cells.

James Thomson, UW–Madison professor and WiCell scientific director, is the lead researcher on the grant. The funds will allow WiCell’s central core facility to provide cell-culture support to scientists studying human embryonic stem cells at both WiCell and UW–Madison. In addition, three pilot projects are planned to study questions in basic biology that are important for further stem cell discoveries.

“This grant will enable WiCell and the University of Wisconsin–Madison to continue their leadership roles in human embryonic stem cell research. It is a significant tribute to Dr. Thomson, his collaborators and the entire stem cell team,” says Carl Gulbrandsen, president of WiCell’s Board of Directors.

WiCell is a private, non-profit organization that supports UW–Madison. A scientific advisory board made up of UW–Madison faculty members is responsible for the scientific direction of the institute. WiCell’s centralized facility, which is adjacent to the UW–Madison campus, provides a laboratory space where researchers from diverse disciplines and far-flung campus locations can collaborate on human embryonic stem cell research while maintaining primary laboratories in their own departments.

“The heart and soul of stem cell research is here at the University of Wisconsin. This award reiterates the important role we play at the national level,” says R. Timothy Mulcahy, Graduate School associate dean for the biological sciences.

WiCell was established in 1999 by WARF and UW–Madison. The university and WiCell operate under a collaboration agreement that ensures that the expertise of both entities will be available to advance research relating to human embryonic stem cells. WiCell’s mission is two fold: 1) to provide human embryonic stem cells and training for research purposes to academic scientists all over the world, and 2) to engage in research utilizing the expertise of the UW–Madison scientific community.

“To date, WiCell has provided human embryonic stem cells to more than 125 research groups and also provides training at its Madison facility to researchers all over the world,” says Nancy Block, WiCell general manager. “This grant will help us continue the progress of stem cell research – not just on this campus – but throughout the entire scientific community.”

The two other grants for Exploratory Centers for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research were awarded to the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.