Foundation gives $10M to Duke for stem cell research
Posted March 18, 2010 11:27 a.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2010 11:37 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — The Robertson Foundation has given $10.2 million to Duke University to create a state-of-the-art Translational Cell Therapy Center, officials said Thursday.
Dr. Victor Dzau, Duke's chancellor for health affairs and chief executive of the Duke University Health System, said the center would advance the university's pioneering cell therapy research and treatment programs for children and adults with cancer, cerebral palsy, stroke and brain injuries suffered at birth. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg and her research team have spent decades investigating the therapeutic use of umbilical cord blood stem cells, he said.
“The emerging field of regenerative medicine has great promise, and this generous gift will accelerate the pace of Dr. Kurtzberg’s and other Duke scientists’ world-renowned, translational work in cell therapies,” Dzau said in a statement. “The creation of the TCTC will support the work of many Duke researchers exploring various applications of cell-based therapies.”
Kurtzberg is director of Duke’s Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, which she established in 1996 with support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The cord blood bank is one of the largest such facilities in the world, currently storing about 27,000 units.
Umbilical cord blood stem cells, normally discarded after birth, have the ability to grow and develop into various types of cells throughout the body. They can be harvested after birth and stored for future transplant in patients with many types of blood disorders, and increasingly, other diseases as well.
“Dr. Kurtzberg’s research reflects the kind of transformational science that has the potential to change the lives of thousands of people throughout the country and around the world,” Julian Robertson, of the Robertson Foundation, said in a statement.
Robertson founded Tiger Management, one of the earliest hedge funds, and now is active in philanthropy. He recently donated several works to the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Part of the gift to Duke will be used to build a special laboratory where therapeutic cells will be made and stored. The lab will follow strict guidelines set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to ensure the highest degree of safety and quality.
“This gift comes at such an important time because it will enable us to move forward with the first placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial in children with (cerebral palsy) that has been specifically designed to answer key questions about the efficacy of cord blood treatments in children with this condition,” Kurtzberg said in a statement.
Over time, she said, the gift also will allow studies of cord blood stem cell transplants in certain newborns with congenital heart disease, studies of cord blood-derived cells in certain children with genetically-acquired neurodegenerative diseases and studies to determine the value of using cord blood or bone marrow cells in adults with stroke or brain injury resulting from radiation to treat brain cancer.