Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute Gets $10M Grant from Starr Foundation

The Miller School of Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) announced that it received a $10 million grant from The Starr Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the United States. The grant will support ISCI in broadening its preclinical and clinical research on stem cells, and help accelerate its pipeline of translational research and programs for a wide range of debilitating conditions including cardiac disease, cancer, wound healing, stroke, glaucoma and chronic kidney and gastrointestinal diseases.

“This is a momentous and transformative gift for the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute,” said Joshua M. Hare, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.H.A., Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine and director of ISCI. “We are so gratified that the level of science being conducted here was recognized by this very generous grant from The Starr Foundation. With this award, we join the ranks of the other major top-tier universities funded by The Starr Foundation. This support, along with our growing NIH funding, technology transfer, and other philanthropic efforts guarantees the stability of ISCI through the end of the decade, and will allow us to continue to push the boundaries of regenerative medicine with the goal of improving human health.”

“Stem cells and regenerative medicine are poised to transform the way we practice medicine, cure disease and treat injuries. To realize this potential, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is performing world-leading research at ISCI,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Miami Health System. “We are extremely proud of this recognition by The Starr Foundation that ISCI, and the Miller School of Medicine, are leading the way for stem cell and regenerative medicine breakthroughs.”

Donna E. Shalala, President of the University of Miami, said the grant from the foundation will have “long-reaching implications for future medicine. The team at ISCI is making new discoveries on a number of fronts and this substantial support from The Starr Foundation propels that work forward, both in the laboratory and in clinical trials.”

The Starr Foundation has long been a champion of stem cell research and its potential to dramatically change the way physicians treat and cure disease. Similarly, ISCI was founded in 2008 with the goal to discover and advance cell-based therapies for devastating and untreatable diseases and help unlock the power of regenerative medicine. ISCI’s groundbreaking cardiac clinical trials, led by Dr. Hare, account for the largest cohort of patients injected with stem cells in the United States. These trials have demonstrated that stem cells injected into hearts following a heart attack actually repair damage and improve organ function, and compelling study results have been published in Circulation Research, where the article was one of the top 10 read publications of 2011.

“The Starr Foundation has had long ties to the University of Miami and our total grants, including the endowed C. V. Starr Scholarship Fund, now total more than $15.5 million,” said Maurice R. Greenberg, chairman of The Starr Foundation. “We learned about some of the interesting stem cell research at Miami, specifically efforts to rebuild damaged hearts, and we wanted to help further that research as it moved into clinical applications.”

ISCI is currently leading 13 clinical trials evaluating the use of stem cells in patients with conditions including congestive heart failure, skin wounds, burns, pulmonary fibrosis and stroke. The POSEIDON clinical trial, an ongoing Phase 1/2 study led by Dr. Hare, is designed to compare the effects of autologous (from the patient) mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) with allogeneic (from an unrelated donor) MSCs in patients with heart failure. This NIH-sponsored study is the first clinical trial to compare autologous to allogeneic stem cells and is expected to provide valuable insights and data when it is completed later this year.

“We try to stay current with developments at our long-time grantees and sometimes this leads to additional grants based on compelling projects,” said Florence A. Davis, president of The Starr Foundation. “The team at the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute is energetic and dedicated—it was a good fit for our medical research grant making.”

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