Initiative on Human Health

Stem cell research, neurosciences promise breakthrough discoveries

Stanford is building what is expected to be the nation's largest center for stem cell research to foster basic research and expedite the discovery of new stem cell therapies.

In 2008, alumnus Lorry Lokey doubled his previous gift for the new stem cell research building for a total of $75 million. Now called the Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building, it also has been supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and by alumnus John Scully and his wife, Regina. Support from the Scullys also will create space within the proposed new Stanford Hospital to treat patients using future stem cell therapies.

Researchers focused on stem cell biology and cancer stem cell research will be housed in the Lokey building, as will a novel microfluidics facility that draws on bioengineering research. The building will include 60 research benches to promote interdisciplinary collaboration among basic scientists and clinical researchers.

A consortium created with a $9 million gift from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation will bring physician-scientists, biologists, chemists, engineers and computer scientists together in the Lokey building to target the causes of diseases and translate discoveries into therapies. The Siebel Foundation gift created the Siebel Stem Cell Institute, an initiative joining the University of California Berkeley Stem Cell Center and Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Also launched in 2008 is the new “NeuroVentures” program, under the aegis of Bio-X. NeuroVentures promotes technologies likely to enhance understanding of the fundamental functioning of the human brain. A promising technique is optogenetics, invented at Stanford by Karl Deisseroth, assistant professor of bioengineering, psychiatry and behavioral sciences. Optogenetics combines use of light and genetics to turn specific cells on or off. This approach has the potential to identify and map the neural networks underlying cognition and intelligence and to repair the effects of neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Stem cell biology and the neurosciences are two areas under Stanford’s Human Health Initiative, which helps facilitate the translation of discoveries from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside. The initiative also concentrates on the biosciences, bioengineering and cancer.