SAN DIEGO – (Oct.27, 2011) The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology has become the fifth organization in the prestigious Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, joining colleagues from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Scripps Research Institute, University of California, San Diego and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in the first-of-its-kind multi-institutional stem cell research collaboration.
Slated to open its new collaborative research facility in November, the Sanford Consortium will marshal the intellectual resources of its five collaborating organizations – all world-leaders in life sciences – to improve human health through stem cell research.
"We are pleased that the La Jolla Institute has accepted our invitation to join the Sanford Consortium," said Edward W. Holmes, M.D., the Consortium's president and chief executive officer, adding that the La Jolla Institute's strong immunology expertise will complement and expand that of the collaborating organizations. "The foundation of the Sanford Consortium is to establish a "collaboratory" that brings together investigators with different expertise to exploit stem cells to improve human health," he said. "The addition of a body of investigators with expertise in immunology will expand the Consortium's breadth of science in a number of important ways."
A biomedical research nonprofit, the La Jolla Institute focuses on fighting disease through the study of the immune system and was recently ranked among the top five organizations worldwide for research impact in immunology.
Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president and chief scientific officer, said the Consortium offers strong potential for transformative research. "The Collaboratory will foster the kind of cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional research that accelerates discovery and leads to breakthroughs," he said. "We're all very excited about the possibilities."
In becoming part of the Sanford Consortium, La Jolla Institute faculty member Anjana Rao, Ph.D., a prominent genetics and cell biology researcher, will move part of her lab into the new building. Dr. Kronenberg becomes a member of the Consortium's 10-member Board of Directors, which includes UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, Ph.D., and leaders from the other collaborating organizations. The Board is co-chaired by San Diego philanthropists Irwin M. Jacobs, Sc.D., Malin Burnham and John Moores, and South Dakota-based philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who provided a $30 million naming gift to the Consortium.
While retaining their independent research affiliations, researchers from the five organizations will work side by side to hasten the pace of stem cell research progress, and to discover and develop diagnostics, therapies and cures to relieve human suffering from chronic disease and injury.
Louis R. Coffman, Sanford Consortium vice president & chief operating officer, praised the La Jolla Institute's addition to the collaboration. "Their researchers have a wonderful reputation for science and perfectly align with the Consortium's overriding goal – to catalyze great science."
Lawrence Goldstein, Ph.D., director of UC San Diego's Stem Cell Program, who will locate his lab in the Collaboratory, offered similar sentiments. "Obviously, we're delighted to have the involvement of such an outstanding Institute," he said. "This will not only bring the unique expertise of Anjana Rao to the Consortium, but we anticipate that it will boost collaborations between the Consortium organizations and many of the fine immunologists from the La Jolla Institute."
Coffman added that "Anjana is a wonderful addition to the San Diego research community and the other Consortium scientists are enthused about collaborating with her."
Dr. Rao joined the La Jolla Institute in 2010 as head of the Institute's Division of Signaling and Gene Expression, after many years as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and the Immune Disease Institute in Boston. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors in American Science, Dr. Rao is well known for her many breakthrough discoveries that span a wide range of biomedical research, among them a calcium channel that regulates a family of transcription factors used by white blood cells to fight disease, and a family of DNA-modifying enzymes that have important roles in stem cell function and in cancer.
"The Consortium will be an ideal place to connect with people working on stem cell biology and neurobiology, which is where some of my research is tending lately," she said. "I look forward to the rare opportunity, which the Sanford Consortium affords, to interact with some of the world's top stem cell scientists on a daily basis. I expect the synergy to produce some remarkable science."
The Sanford Consortium, a nonprofit organization, was originally assembled in 2006 as the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine with four members (Scripps, Salk, Sanford-Burnham and UC San Diego), but renamed in September 2008 after T. Denny Sanford's naming donation.
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn's disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute's research staff includes more than 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute's work, visit www.liai.org.
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