Friday, June 18, 2010

Yamanaka Wins Kyoto Award

The Japanese stem cell scientist who pioneered reprogramming of adult stem cells has won the prestigious Kyoto Award, a $550,000 prize from the Inamori Foundation for research in advanced technology.

Shinya Yamanaka, who also has a lab at UCSF's Gladstone Institutes and is working with a CIRM-connected firm, is in San Francisco for the International Society of Stem Cell Research's annual convention.

David Pearlman, science editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote,
Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology and an adjunct professor at Wake Forest University's stem cell research center, said recently that Yamanaka's work 'is likely to be the most important stem cell breakthrough of all time.'”
Jef Akst of The Scientist reported,
“Yamanaka's 2007 Cell paper was one of the most-cited papers last year, according to ISI. Last year, the No. 1 spot in The Scientist's Top 10 Innovations of 2009 went to a group that induced pluripotency in mouse embryonic fibroblast cells using only proteins, including the protein form of Yamanaka's four transcription factors, avoiding genetic modification altogether.”
Yamanaka is director of the Kyoto Universityh's iPS research center, which has an agreement with iPierian, Inc., of South San Francisco, a company backed with $20 million from the Kleiner Perkins venture capital firm of Menlo Park, Ca.

The iPierian Web site says,
“iPierian is the first company to focus the power of iPS technology to revolutionize the drug discovery process by producing iPS cells derived from patients to create truly disease-relevant model systems. These systems can be used for the discovery of new drugs and ultimately for treating diseases more safely and effectively.”
Ipierian has a $1.5 million grant from the California stem cell agency seeking to identify small molecules that promote the reprogramming of human somatic cells to the pluripotent state. Berta Strulovici is the principal investigator on that grant. The firm says it plans to seek more during a clinical trial grant offering from CIRM in the next month or so.

Four principals in the Kleiner firm contributed nearly $6 million to Prop. 71, which created the California stem cell agency in 2004. The amount was 25 percent of all funds raised for the campaign.

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