The University of California, San Diego has announced a $100 million commitment from South Dakota businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to establish a stem cell research center.
The Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center will work to accelerate the development of drugs and cell therapies derived from human stem cell research for diseases ranging from cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease to spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's disease. Among other things, the gift from Sanford will be used to integrate research conducted at four locations: the UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center and a proposed clinical space, both scheduled to open in 2016; the UC San Diego Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine; and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.
Part of a broader $275 million effort by UC San Diego to conduct some of the first clinical trials involving human stem cells, the gift also will fund physical and human resources at the Sanford Consortium, a "collaboratory" of scientists from UC San Diego, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Scripps Research Institute, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, the J. Craig Venter Institute, and other institutions.
Sanford — a Giving Pledge signatory who has vowed to give his entire fortune to philanthropic causes — donated $30 million in 2008 for the development and construction of the Sanford Consortium's facility, which opened in 2011. He and his foundation also gave $20 million to the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in 2007 and awarded a $50 million challenge grant in 2010 to the renamed Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. His gift to create the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center is the second largest ever to UC San Diego, after a $110 million gift from Joan and Irwin Jacobs to endow the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
"Clinical trials are not the finish line, but they are essential to advancing the science and ultimately creating much-needed drugs and therapies," said Lawrence Goldstein, director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program and scientific director of the Sanford Consortium, who will serve as director of the new Sanford Center. "We have made profound progress in understanding the basic nature and abilities of stem cells. We know a great deal about how they work and differentiate and, in a number of cases, how to make them become the kinds of cells we think we need. Now we have to put that knowledge to the test in people, for people."
UC San Diego also announced a $25 million challenge grant from an anonymous donor — a 1:1 match for donations made in the next twelve months — in support of the Jacobs Medical Center, a $839 million facility currently under construction.