Peter Donovan and fellow stem cell researchers awarded $1.54 million to advance basic studies to improve cancer, brain disease treatments

January 30, 2014

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014 – Two UC Irvine research teams, including Peter Donovan of the School of Biological Sciences, will receive $1.54 million in state funding to further studies on the fundamental structure and function of stem cells. Their work will aid efforts to treat and cure a range of ailments, from cancer to neurological diseases and injuries.

Peter DonovanThe California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded the two grants today to two members of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center as part of its basic biology awards program. Developmental and Cell Biology Professor Peter Donovan and Lisa Flanagan with the School of Medicine.

CIRM’s governing board gave 27 such grants worth $27 million to 11 institutions statewide. The funded projects are considered critical to the institute’s mission of investigating the underlying mechanisms of stem cell biology, cellular plasticity and cellular differentiation in order to create a foundation for future translational and clinical advances.

Today’s grants bring total CIRM funding at UC Irvine to $98.8 million.

“Innovative basic research like this paves the way to better designs for the use of stem cells,” said Sidney Golub, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. “Even more importantly, it can open up entirely new approaches based on a better understanding of how stem cells function.”

In Donovan’s project, he and fellow UC Irvine researchers Marian Waterman, Robert Edwards and Michelle Digman will use a $540,000 grant for a new kind of microscopy to capture images of the metabolic states of cells in living tissue in order to identify stem cell populations. Because stem cells can give rise to tumors that are metabolically very different from normal tissue, being able to identify cells that are about to create tumors could be immensely helpful in early cancer diagnosis.

“If these studies are successful, our findings can be employed in clinical settings for better diagnosis of human disease,” said Donovan, a professor of biological chemistry and developmental & cell biology.

To read more about the overall grant, visit


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