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Wellcome Trust, MRC Launch $20M Stem Cell Resource

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Wellcome Trust and the UK's Medical Research Council are investing £12.8 million ($20.5 million) to create a database of induced pluripotent stem cells for use in a range of research efforts, such as genetic disease studies, the Wellcome Trust said today.

The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative (HIPSCI) will be led by King's College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and will include collaborations with the University of Cambridge, the University of Dundee, the European Bioinformatics Institute, and University College London.

The HIPSCI partners will generate iPS cells from healthy volunteers and from patient groups and will conduct extensive genetic analysis on the cells, characterizing how these cells respond to stimuli and develop into specialized cell types.

This collection of cells and the related data will serve as a "comprehensive resource for investigating how genetic variation impacts on cell behavior and how diseases linked to a specific genetic defect can result in a broad spectrum of clinical abnormalities," Wellcome Trust said.

The Sanger investigators plan to create more than 1,000 iPS cells from healthy and diseased volunteers and will conduct genomics studies of variation in their cellular functions.

Professor Fiona Watt of King's College said in a statement that HIPSCI will bring together "world-leading expertise in clinical genetics, stem cell biology, and genomic technologies. We believe that this research will drive forward the translation of basic research into improved diagnosis and treatment of disease."

"The 1000 Genomes Project published its first comprehensive suite of findings last Wednesday: today's announcement will harness biological research on a similarly powerful scale to give that variation biological meaning," added Wellcome Trust's Richard Durbin. "By tying genetic variation to changes in the behavior of human cells, we will build paths to understanding human disease."

"By investing in a UK-wide initiative in iPS cell technology, we hope to propel UK researchers to the forefront of this rapidly evolving field and provide an invaluable stock of high-quality cell lines for use by academia and industry alike," MRC Chief Executive John Savill said.

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