Sunday, November 13, 2011

$127 Million in 'Good News' for San Diego Stem Cell Researchers

Earlier today, an anonymous reader posted a comment on the California Stem Cell Report wondering where the "good news" was about the stem cell agency. We are not sure whether the reader was wondering about the content of this site or the mainstream media or both.

Sanford Consortium lab from live Webcam shot this weekend
on the Sanford web site. 
But the comment came less than 24 hours after a San Diego area newspaper published a glowing piece about the opening of a new stem cell research building under the auspices of five powerful research organizations – Salk, Scripps, Sanford Burnham, UC San Diego and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, a recent addition to the consortium.

Bradley Fikes of the North County Times wrote the story. He may be the last reporter in California to regularly, albeit infrequently, cover California stem cell issues for a mainstream newspaper.

Fikes' story heralded the $127 million structure. (The cost includes equipment.) He wrote,
"San Diego County's bid for supremacy in the fast-growing field of stem cell research will gain an iconic new image Nov. 29, when a gleaming headquarters for some of San Diego County's top stem cell researchers officially opens.

"The 132,000 square-foot building off in La Jolla will become the headquarters of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine...."
The consortium was formed in the wake of voter approval of Prop. 71, which created California's $3 billion stem cell program and provided hundreds of millions of dollars for new labs. Edward Holmes, formerly vice chancellor at UC San Diego, is president and CEO of the consortium. Holmes is also chairman of the National Medical Research Council in Singapore. (For Holmes perspective on the consortium, see this 2010 interview.)

The building was financed with $43 million from the California stem cell agency, $65 million in bonds guaranteed by the University of California and $19 million from T. Denny Sanford, a South Dakota billionaire banker.

After CIRM approved funding for the building in May 2008, the consortium struggled with finding cash beyond what CIRM provided. The roadblocks delayed work on the facility, which was supposed to be completed by May 2010 at a cost of $155 million, according to the stem cell agency.

Like the other new labs assisted by $271 million in stem cell agency construction funds, the San Diego building is touted as conducive to bringing scientists together. Indeed, it has been dubbed a "collaboratory."

Fikes wrote,
"Even the staircases have been designed in keeping with the goal of making as much space as possible serve collaboration. The Sanford Consortium's staircases are wide, open and airy. They connect multiple 'laboratory neighborhoods' on different levels, so that scientists from different labs and floors will inevitably pass each other on their way to work."
Fikes said that at each level the staircases include areas with tables and chairs for quick chats. He quoted Louis Coffman, chief operating officer of the consortium, as saying,
"It's a lively interlude between floors. It creates an interesting space. More than that, it connects the physical locations of two different floors. So whereas people on different floors, who would otherwise be as disconnected as they would be in different buildings, hopefully they're going to make connections."
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