Public Release: 

CU Anschutz scientists awarded $3.8 million Department of Defense grant

String of major recent grants underlines promise of new potential treatments for Epidermolysis Bullosa and other chronic skin wounds

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

AURORA, Colo. (April 12, 2018) - Scientists from the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine are part of a consortium awarded $3.8 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to move discoveries in stem cell-created skin grafts into the manufacturing stage, bringing further hope to victims of debilitating inherited skin diseases.

The major grant for the Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) iPS Cell Consortium, which includes research teams from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Stanford University School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center, will move production of stem cells into the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility at CU Anschutz.

The $3.8 million grant follows recent awards for the same investigators by the 21st Century Cures Act and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, boosting research that could not only benefit EB sufferers, but also countless patients with severe chronic skin wounds. In February, CU Anschutz's EB researchers reported a more efficient approach to reprogramming a patient's diseased skin cells into stem cells, raising hopes for future clinical trials and potential cures. The results were published in Nature Communications.

In announcing the new grant, Department of Defense (DoD) reviewers issued one of the most emphatic research endorsements possible, saying, "This study is based on the strongest cutting-edge scientific rationale in the field of wound care and dermatology. It is also a collaborative effort among top physician-scientists, scientists, health care providers, epidermolysis bullosa patients, families, and charities across the United States."

One evaluator wrote: "The proposed research has the highest probability of success of bringing gene-corrected tissue to patients in the hospital . . ."

The DoD award will allow the EB research team to further investigate best manufacturing practices for larger-scale production of stem cell-created skin grafts, utilizing the best-in-class resources of the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility on the CU Anschutz Campus.

The goal now is to move the technology from the laboratory into clinical trials. Gates Center Director Dennis Roop, PhD, is a lead researcher on the team making great progress on promising new corrective stem cell-based therapies for currently incurable diseases, such as Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).

Dr. Roop has had a long-standing interest in finding a permanent cure for EB, a group of inherited skin diseases that results in severe blistering and scarring. EB affects thousands of people across the United States and worldwide, and is characterized by chronic skin wounds similar in property to thermal burns, and indistinguishable from burns induced by chemical agents such as mustard gas. Many children afflicted with recessive dystrophic EB, one of the most painful and disfiguring forms of the condition, do not survive their teens after lives compromised by chronic, debilitating pain.

The consortium is funded by the U.S.-based EB Research Partnership (EBRP),) and EB Medical Research Foundation (EBMRF) and the Sohana Research Fund from Great Britain.

"We are very excited to receive such a strong endorsement from the U.S. Department of Defense," said Dr. Ganna Bilousova, PhD, assistant professor of Dermatology at the CU School of Medicine and member of the EB Consortium. "It is extremely difficult to advance any type of novel therapies into the clinic without the benefit of compelling government interest and support."

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About the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine

The Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine was established in 2006 with a gift in memory of Denver industrialist and philanthropist, Charles C. Gates, who was captivated by the hope and benefit stem cell research promised for so many people in the world. The Gates Center aspires to honor what he envisioned--by conducting leading-edge research in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine to accelerate discoveries from the lab through clinical trials leading to effective cures and therapies for patients.

Led by Founding Director Dennis Roop, Ph.D., the Gates Center is located at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, the only comprehensive academic health sciences center in Colorado, the largest academic health center in the Rocky Mountain region and one of the newest education, research and patient care facilities in the world.

The Gates Center shares its services and resources, with a growing membership of researchers and clinicians at the Anschutz Medical Campus, which includes University of Colorado Hospital, Children's Hospital Colorado and the future Veterans Administration Medical Center, as well as the Boulder campus, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines, and business startups. This collaboration is designed to draw on the widest possible array of scientific exploration relevant to stem cell technology focused on the delivery of innovative therapies in Colorado and beyond.

Among the Gates Center's services and resources is the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility, one of six combined cell therapy and protein manufacturing facilities in the United States and the only one of its kind within an 800-mile radius: http://gatesbiomanufacturing.com/

About the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine work to advance science and improve care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Hospital, Children's Hospital Colorado, Denver Health, National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The school is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. To learn more about the medical school's care, education, research and community engagement, visit its web site.

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