May 17, 2007
by Terry Devitt
In an effort to strengthen and sustain its leadership in the companion fields of stem cell research and regenerative medicine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will establish a new Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.
The announcement of the new center, to be made today (May 17) at a public lecture by famed developmental biologist Ian Wilmut, the creator of the cloned sheep Dolly, sets the stage for a critical central entity under which the UW-Madison campus can enhance and strengthen its programs of stem cell research, training and education.
“What we hope to do is provide a bridge for all researchers on campus involved in stem cell research,” says Clive Svendsen, a UW-Madison neuroscientist and a noted stem cell authority. The new center will be co-directed by Svendsen and cardiologist and stem cell researcher Timothy Kamp, and will operate under the joint auspices of the Graduate School and the School of Medicine and Public Health.
“We’re going to cover all of stem cell biology and regenerative processes,” Svendsen says, keeping a broad focus on stem cells ranging from embryos and adult tissues to cancer stem cells.
The new center will encompass existing programs in regenerative medicine and an interdisciplinary stem cell post-doctoral training program, and will serve as a focal point for basic, pre-clinical and clinical research in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, an emerging multidisciplinary field that seeks to develop technologies to repair or replace diseased or defective tissues or organs.
Kamp and Svendsen estimate that as many as 50 UW-Madison faculty are engaged to varying degrees in stem cell research and regenerative medicine. In addition to the much-publicized work with human cells on the UW-Madison campus, scientists whose work could be supported by the new center include basic scientists who study stem cells and development in other animals ranging from non-human primates to nematodes, a roundworm widely used in biomedical research.
The new center, Kamp says, will serve as a focal point for research by helping to develop core facilities, a seed grant program, funding for post-doctoral fellows and educational and outreach programs. To begin with, the center will be a virtual one, with no building but with the administrative and support capacity to effectively fuel key areas of research and education.
This is especially important, the researchers note, as key campus projects such as the Interdisciplinary Research Center and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery evolve.
“We see strong links between the various programs through collaborations and funding programs,” Kamp explains. “Given the wide interest in stem cells and regenerative medicine, the interdisciplinary and translational nature of the work, and the pre-eminence of Wisconsin in this area of biology, we feel this is both timely and crucial for Wisconsin to maintain its leadership.”
Both Kamp and Svendsen say the new center will be critical to the university’s ability to maintain and strengthen its programs. It will, for example, be an asset in helping to attract the best faculty and students to Wisconsin.
“Another emphasis of the center will be on recruitment and retention,” Svendsen says. “It is important to show UW-Madison has leadership and focus in this area,” especially as competition from other states and from Europe and Asia becomes more intense.
The center will also serve as a focal point for fund-raising, advocacy and outreach, the researchers note.
“Part of our motivation is to build community,” according to Kamp. “We want to bring people together to empower the basic research and the clinical applications any way we can.”