Monday, October 08, 2012

Yamanaka and the Golden State

The iPierian biopharmaceutical company in South San Francisco was quick to make a change in its web site this morning after the Nobel Prize for medicine was announced.

Altered was the bio for one of its scientific advisors, Shinya Yamanaka, to note that he had won the Nobel. The bio is tucked away on the site, but it is likely that the company, which specializes in iPS work, will figure out how to put the news out front on its home page as well as issue a press release.

It was all part of the reaction today in California to the Nobel for Yamanaka, who has substantial links to the Golden State, including UCSF and the Gladstone Institutes.

Both enterprises moved with greater deftness than iPierian. Yamanaka is a professor at UCSF and a senior investigator at Gladstone, and the organizations quickly put together a news conference this morning that featured Yamanaka on a video hook-up from Japan.

UCSF, which is allied with Gladstone, issued a press release that quoted the president of Gladstone, R. Sanders Williams, who also mentioned the California stem cell agency. Williams said,
“Dr. Yamanaka’s story is a thrilling tale of creative genius, focused dedication and successful cross-disciplinary science. These traits, nurtured during Dr. Yamanaka’s postdoctoral training at Gladstone, have led to a breakthrough that has helped propel the San Francisco Bay Area to the forefront of stem cell research. Dozens of labs — often supported by organizations such as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the Roddenberry Foundation–have adopted his technology.” 
CIRM, which is the state's $3 billion stem cell effort, published an item on its blog quoting CIRM President Alan Trounson. He said,
"There are few moments in science that are undisputed as genuine elegant creativity and simplicity. Shinya Yamanaka is responsible for one of those. The induced pluripotent stem cells he created will allow us to interrogate and understand the full extent and variation of human disease, will enable us to develop new medicines and will forever change the way science and medicine will be conducted for the benefit of mankind. An extraordinary accomplishment by a genuinely modest and brilliant scientist. He absolutely deserves a Nobel award.”
The CIRM item by Amy Adams, the agency's communications manager, said that just five years after Yamanaka's research,
“CIRM alone is funding almost $190 million in awards developing better ways of creating iPS cells and using those cells to develop new therapies (the full list of iPS grants is on our website).”
One of the recipients of CIRM's iPS cash is the well-connected iPierian, which has taken in $7.1 million. Yamanaka, however, has never received a grant from the agency, and it is not known whether he ever applied since CIRM releases only the names of researchers whose applications were approved.
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