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UCI earns designation as CIRM Alpha Clinic with five-year, $8 million grant

Campus to launch micronetwork focused on expanding stem cell clinical trial access

October 27, 2022

Irvine, Calif. — With a five-year, $8 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the University of California, Irvine has earned designation as one of CIRM’s Alpha Clinics. The goal of the statewide network is to accelerate the development of promising stem cell and gene therapies and expand patient access to them through clinical trials approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Fueled by our passion for world-class science, our dedication to finding cures by delivering transformative stem cell and regenerative medicine treatments, and our unwavering commitment to addressing health disparities and patient equity, we will launch an innovative micronetwork with healthcare partners spanning four California counties and serving all age groups, from children to our nation’s veterans,” said Dr. Daniela A. Bota, director of the UCI Alpha Clinic, the UCI School of Medicine’s vice dean for clinical research and principal investigator for the CIRM grant.

“Our unique focus on cell and gene therapy clinical trials for neurological diseases and cancer will increase access for our patients and empower us to lead the way in bringing novel regenerative treatments into the Alpha Clinics Network.”

Using a hub-and-spoke model, the UCI Alpha Clinic, the clinical arm of the UCI Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, will lead cell and gene therapy efforts within the university’s academic health system and in close collaboration with its academic partners in a four-county area. Called the REAL micronetwork (taken from letters in the names of participating counties), it will incorporate established health system partners in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, extending UCI’s ability to reach some of the most medically underserved patients in the state and further strengthening UCI’s nationally recognized leadership in addressing health disparities.

“The novel UCI REAL micronetwork will create practical knowledge to share throughout the CIRM Alpha Clinics Network, as well as providing direct access to a wide array of clinical programs and engage in meaningful national collaborations," said Sean Turbeville, PhD, CIRM’s vice president of medical affairs and policy. "This hub-and-spoke model, built on established partnerships, increases the statewide Alpha Clinics Network’s accessibility to diverse populations, encourages active community participation, provides opportunities to enhance workforce development and to train the next generation of stem cell and gene therapy clinical researchers.”

Bota will lead the UCI Alpha Clinic and oversee its REAL micronetwork, which encompasses UCI Medical Center and clinical locations across Orange County; the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach and VA locations in Orange and Los Angeles counties, under the direction of Dr. Anton Eissa; Children’s Hospital of Orange County – CHOC – and its clinical locations, under the direction of Dr. Raymond Wang; and community hospitals in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, under the direction of Dr. Sasidharan Ponthenkandath of the UC Riverside School of Medicine.

“The UCI Alpha Clinic, together with our partners, will serve as a conduit, translating discovery into clinical research," said Aileen J. Anderson, PhD, director of the UCI stem cell center and professor of physical medicine & rehabilitation at the UCI School of Medicine. "Over the last three years, the UCI Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center has made extensive infrastructure investments, including two new research clinics, a production facility to manufacture FDA-compliant cell and gene therapies and a cell processing laboratory. Together, our micronetwork model and expanded infrastructure, including the new UCI Health — Irvine medical complex under construction in Irvine, will provide value to the CIRM Alpha Clinics Network and the regenerative medicine ecosystem in California and beyond.”

About the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine: At CIRM, we never forget that we were created by the people of California to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs, and act with a sense of urgency to succeed in that mission. To meet this challenge, our team of highly trained and experienced professionals actively partners with both academia and industry in a hands-on, entrepreneurial environment to fast-track the development of today’s most promising stem cell technologies. With $5.5 billion in funding and more than 150 active stem cell programs in our portfolio, CIRM is one of the world’s largest institutions dedicated to helping people by bringing the future of cellular medicine closer to reality. For more information, visit https://www.cirm.ca.gov ›

The UCI Alpha Clinic is the clinical trials arm of the UCI Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center (SCRC) and part of a network of the state's CIRM-funded leading medical centers. It specializes in delivering leading-edge stem cell clinical trials and gene therapy to patients, and it seeks to accelerate the development of new treatments through partnerships with patients, medical providers and clinical trial sponsors. Visit www.stemcell.uci.edu to learn more about clinical stem cell trials and regenerative medicine research at UCI.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It is located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. Visit www.uci.edu to learn more about UCI.

For more information, contact Pat Harriman at pharrima@uci.edu or 949-501-1008.