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California to fund research in stem-cell genomics


By Associated Press
Posted: January 26, 2014 - 7:30 pm ET
Tags:

The state of California is preparing to invest up to $40 million in a new scientific field that backers say could revolutionize medicine and lead to personalized medical treatments.

The directors of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine are meeting in Berkeley this Wednesday to create one or two research centers for stem-cell genomics, the Sacramento Bee reported Sunday.

Scientists and biotech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and elsewhere are competing for the research money.

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Researchers believe that genomics, the study of genes and their relationships, can lead to more effective therapies that are tailored to a patient's genetic makeup.

The new research centers for stem-cell genomics could help make California a leader in the fast-moving field.

"Right now, in a lot of ways, doctors are making educated guesses as to how to treat us patients more generally," said UC Davis stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler. "By knowing our genomic information ... they could be making far more educated choices about treatments."

The move into genomics comes as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine struggles to fulfill the promises of the 2004 ballot initiative campaign that created the $3 billion stem-cell agency.

So far, no new therapies have emerged from the state institute, which will run out of cash for new awards in less than three years and needs some high-profile success to raise more money.

Two years ago, the stem cell agency decided to move ahead with the plan to fund research into stem-cell genomics and began accepting applications for research money.

A group headed by Stanford University's Michael Snyder, director of its Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine, is expected to receive a $33 million award, based on documents posted Friday on the agency's website.

According to some studies, current annual sales of genomic products exceed $3 billion and could grow by 10 percent to 17 percent a year.

But some medical experts say inaccurate or poorly understood genetic information could lead to patients to undergo unnecessary or harmful procedures intended to ward off future disease.

The Food and Drug Administration recently cracked down on 23andMe, the Google-backed genetics firm in Mountain View. The agency said the company had failed to show that its testing produced accurate results. Last month, the firm said it would stop providing health information with its tests.


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