Sunday, October 14, 2007

Buried News: William Bowes, UCSB and Jamie Thomson

In the increasingly rarefied atmosphere of stem cell philanthropy, a $3 million gift does not necessarily make big headlines. Especially when it goes to a school outside of the small circle of stem cell stars.

So last week when one of the founders of Amgen, William Bowes(see photo), gave that amount to the University of California campus at Santa Barbara(UCSB), it hardly caused a ripple in the media.

Something similar occurred earlier this year when renown University of Wisconsin stem cell researcher Jamie Thomson became affiliated as an unpaid, adjunct professor with UCSB. It was nearly a non-announcement and received little initial attention. But the school put together a $1 million package for him and is building a lab.

All of which reflects very much on the way the California media works. If it doesn't happen in Los Angeles or San Francisco, it is not likely to receive much notice.

But more particularly none of the news reports on the donation put it together with Thomson's presence at UCSB, which is very much a part-time thing. But it is hard to resist speculating that Thomson and UCSB could draw ever closer.

The press release from school, which stands on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific just north of Santa Barbara, quoted Michael Witherell, UCSB vice chancellor for research, as saying:
"UCSB is bringing to stem cell research its characteristic approach of integrating science and engineering in a single center. The Ruth Garland Chair is central to this approach, because it allows us to attract a researcher of national stature to lead the new center."
The $3 million donation was given by Bowes in memory of his mother, Ruth Garland. She was born in Santa Barbara and raised in nearby Ojai. Her grandparents settled in Santa Barbara in 1855. Educated as a physican at Stanford , she participated in a major diabetics study with William Sansum in Santa Barbara. A nonprofit research facility in Santa Barbara bears his name. It was one of the first places in the United States to do studies on insulin after it was discovered.

We asked Dennis Clegg, chairman of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department and director of the Training Program in Stem Cell Biology at UCSB, about the donation. He replied,
"The gift will allow us to bring in senior talent in the stem cell field to be director of a new center, which will allow us to build on our rapidly growing program in stem cell research, and we are really excited about it. We have had interest in the position from the US and abroad. We have already formed a search committee and will be inviting candidates for interviews in the near future."
Incidentally, UCSB has received nearly $3.5 million in funding from the California stem cell agency during the past two years. You can see Thomson's talk that he gave at UCSB last spring by going to this web page.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't claim it was a tremendous scoop or anything, but I noted James Thomson's plan to open a "satellite lab" at UCSB back in May (see the sixth item here). I'm sure the fact that doing so might make him eligible for CIRM funding was merely an afterthought.


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