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California Stem-Cell Agency Awards $6M to Duke Researcher for Move to Sanford-Burnham

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The board of California's stem cell agency has agreed to award $5.9 million to Duke University researcher Robert Wechsler-Reya if he finalizes an agreement by next month to move his laboratory and his research in neural development and cancer stem cells to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

The award to Wechsler-Reya — an associate professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center — is the first by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine under a $44 million faculty recruitment grant program set to take place quarterly until eight winners have been successfully recruited by institutions.

CIRM's Leadership Awards program offers subsidies intended to help California research institutions recruit early to mid-career stem cell scientists "by permitting the recipients to pursue high-risk, high payoff, innovative studies that could not be adequately supported by other sources," the agency said in a statement announcing the award.

The award to Wechsler-Reya includes indirect costs to be recovered by Sanford-Burnham, CIRM spokesman Don Gibbons told GenomeWeb Daily News.

Wechsler-Reya has been given until the end of June to finish negotiations with Sanford-Burnham. A spokesman for Sanford-Burnham, Josh Baxt, told GWDN the institute would not comment since talks were ongoing.

The Wechsler-Reya lab studies the signals that control cell growth and differentiation in the nervous system, and the manner in which these signals are impaired in brain tumors. Its current areas of research include sonic hedgehog signaling, normal and cancer stem cells, and mouse models of medulloblastoma.

CIRM's board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, approved the award April 29 at its monthly meeting.

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