Chancellor appointed to governing board of state stem cell agency

Chancellor George Blumenthal (photo by Mike Bolte).
Chancellor George Blumenthal (photo by Mike Bolte).
Thursday, February 9, 2017
ucscnews@ucsc.edu (Jennifer McNulty)

Chancellor George Blumenthal has been appointed to a seat on the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state agency created by voters in 2004 to fund stem cell research.

Blumenthal's appointment was announced Wednesday, Feb. 8, by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who personally invited the campus leader to join the 29-member board.

"The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is doing outstanding work, and I am delighted to join the board. CIRM support has advanced stem cell research at UC Santa Cruz and across the state," said Blumenthal. "Public support for this work remains strong, and I look forward to playing a role in securing the future of the institute."

Blumenthal was appointed to a six-year term on the board. A professor of astronomy and astrophysics, he said he looks forward to learning a lot more about stem cell research, the projects supported by CIRM, and the benefits to patients.

CIRM funds stem cell research at institutions and companies throughout California, and beyond, with the goal of speeding treatments to patients with unmet medical needs, including those suffering from heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. CIRM began funding scientists in 2006 and today is the world's largest institution dedicated to helping people by advancing human embryonic stem cell research.

UC Santa Cruz researchers across the disciplines have received support from CIRM, including those working in bioinformatics, neurobiology, developmental biology, and genetics. Even astronomers with expertise in adaptive optics for telescopes have been funded to work with electrical engineers and biologists on deep-tissue imaging techniques.

Among the highlights of campus support received over the past decade:

• A 2008 grant for $7.2 million to establish a stem cell research center.
• A 2014 grant to run the data coordination and management program of the Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics
• A $2.2 million grant in 2009 to fund a program to train stem cell scientists

Jonathan Thomas, chair of the CIRM board said, "We are honored to have someone with Dr. Blumenthal’s experience and expertise join the board. As Chancellor at UCSC, he has demonstrated a clear commitment to advancing world-class research and earned a reputation as a bold and visionary leader. We look forward to seeing those qualities in action to help advance CIRM’s mission."

Former state senator Art Torres serves as vice chair of the CIRM board; Torres is a 1968 graduate of Stevenson College at UC Santa Cruz (B.A., government).

Blumenthal also serves as chair of the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), which manages the W. M. Keck Observatory near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

"I am a great champion of cutting-edge technology that expands human understanding, from the telescopes that unlock the secrets of the universe to computers that reveal the intricacies of the human genome," said Blumenthal.