Public Release: 

CIRM awards $6M to Burnham Institute

'Comprehensive' grants to support long-range stem cell studies aimed at developing new treatments for heart disease and brain repair

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

(La Jolla, CA., March 16, 2007) The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will fund comprehensive research projects directed by Dr. Mark Mercola and Dr. Stuart Lipton of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) with grants totaling more than $6 million.

CIRM's comprehensive grant program is intended to support mature, ongoing studies on human embryonic stem cells (hESC) by scientists with a record of accomplishment in the field. The two grants awarded to Burnham were among 29 comprehensive projects approved earlier today by the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC), the governing body of CIRM, for funding from an allocation of $74.6 million.

Each project at Burnham project will receive $3,035,000 over four years.

  • Mark Mercola, Professor and Associate Director of Burnham's Del E. Webb Center for Neuroscience and Aging Research, and Marcia Dawson, Professor - "Chemical genetic approach to production of hESC derived cardiomyocytes."

  • Stuart Lipton, Professor and Director of Burnham's Del E. Webb Center for Neuroscience and Aging Research, and Alexey Terskikh, Assistant Professor - "Mechanisms of directed neural differentiation in hESC."

"These funds will allow us to use non-NIH-approved hESC to develop a supply of nerve cells for brain repair," said Dr. Lipton. "We will use these new human nerve cells to treat stroke and Parkinson's disease in animal models with an eye to future human therapy."

Dr. Mercola's project will develop drug-like molecules that stimulate generation of heart muscle cells from hESCs. "Drug-like molecules will be used to produce hESC-derived cardiomyocytes," said Mercola, "ultimately for clinical application, and potentially as leads to develop pharmaceuticals to repair the heart through stimulation of its own stem cells."

CIRM was established in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The statewide ballot measure, which provides $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was approved by California voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research opportunities.

Burnham's Program on Stem Cells and Regeneration was established in 1997 to develop a focus on the medical potential of the emerging field of human embryonic stem cell research. Since 2005, Burnham has earned recognition by the National Institutes of Health as an "Exploratory Center for Stem Cell Research", one of six centers nationwide, and California's only such center.


Burnham is a collaborative partner of the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (SDCRM), founded in March 2006 together with UC San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies as a non-profit entity to expand San Diego's collaborative work in stem cell research.

About Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Burnham Institute for Medical Research conducts world-class collaborative research dedicated to finding cures for human disease, improving quality of life, and thus creating a legacy for its employees, partners, donors, and community. The La Jolla, California campus was established as a nonprofit, public benefit corporation in 1976 and is now home to three major centers: a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, the Del E. Webb Center for Neurosciences and Aging, and the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center. Burnham today employs over 750 people and ranks consistently among the world's top 20 research institutes. In 2006, Burnham established a presence at the University of California, Santa Barbara, led by Dr. Erkki Ruoslahti, Distinguished Professor. Burnham is also establishing a campus at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida that will focus on diabetes and obesity research and will expand the Institute's drug discovery capabilities. For additional information about Burnham and to learn about ways to support its research, visit

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