Thursday, August 21, 2008

A 'Booster Rocket' For Research in the 'Big Tomato'

The headline talks about the "dark side" of stem cells, but the piece was a bit of good news for the University of California, Davis, and particularly one man there who just won $2.2 million from the California stem cell agency.

Reporter Carrie Peyton Dahlberg of The Sacramento Bee reported this week about Paul Knoepfler(pictured), a scientist who recently received a faculty award grant from CIRM that he calls a "booster rocket" that will nearly double the budget of his lab.

Dahlberg wrote:
"His target is a gene that causes tumors – and that can transform adult skin cells into versatile stem cells similar to those in embryos."
She said his hope is to make potential stem cell therapies safer. Knoepfler was quoted as saying,
"I'm very optimistic. I don't think the hurdles we're facing are insurmountable."
Dalhberg also quoted Meri Firpo of the University of Minnesota and Joseph Wu of Stanford, commenting favorable on Knoepfler's work.

The Bee piece triggered one reader remark on its website that expressed appreciation for an objective report. The anonymous commentator said it was one of the few articles that have addressed the cancer risk involved in stem cell therapies.

UC Davis has received $38 million from CIRM during the last three years. The dean of its medical school, Claire Pomeroy, is listed as one of the 100 most powerful persons in Sacramento (along with Gov. Schwarzenegger) by Sacramento magazine. Pomeroy is also one of the 29 directors of the state stem cell agency.

Interestingly, she is not quoted either in The Bee article or the press release from UC Davis on Knoepfler. We assume that is the result of her own choice. Probably a good position to take considering the conflict of interest issues surrounding all the many academic and research executives who sit on the CIRM board and whose employers have benefited to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars handed out by CIRM.

(Editor's note: For those of you unfamiliar with California geography, Davis is just west of Sacramento, where the UC Davis medical school is actually located. Sacramento is sometimes known as the Big Tomato because of the vast amounts of tomatoes that are grown in the area. In years past, the Sacramento River would run red in the summer from tomato waste from processing plants.)

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