UC Irvine to open stem cell research center

An artist's rendering of the UCI Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center.
An artist's rendering of the UCI Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center.

IRVINE - The first major stem cell research center in Southern California will open at UC Irvine next Friday, the school said today.

The $80 million, 100,000-square foot Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center is also the state's first such facility built from the ground up specifically designed for stem cell research, according to a news statement from UCI. The school says stem cell therapy will give hope to millions of people worldwide who suffer from such debilitating condition as spinal cord injury, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

The four-story, state-of-the-art building will house dozens of lab-based and clinical researchers, who will offer stem cell techniques courses and graduate-level programs in biotechnology.

``We realize the importance of the mission of this new, state-of-the-art facility presents to us,'' said research center director Peter Donovan. ``We know stem cell research and regenerative medicine represent hope to millions of people, and we aspire to fully deliver on their potential.''

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine allocated $27.2 million to the project, UCI said. The institute was created by California voters through 2004's Proposition 71, which was designed to propel the state to lead a new industry by funding stem cell research.

Laguna Beach philanthropists Sue and Bill Gross made an initial $10 million gift that the campus leveraged to attract the CIRM award, officials said in a news statement. The remaining funds came from additional private support and the University of California.

Bill Gross is co-founder and co-chief investment officer of Newport Beach-based PIMCO, which is described by financial wire services as the world's largest mutual fund.