University of Maryland School of Medicine receives $30 million to coordinate stem cell consortium

December 16, 2009

A University of Maryland School of Medicine researcher will lead the coordinating center for a consortium of our nation's most prominent scientists in the field of stem cell research. Michael L. Terrin, M.D.,C.M.,M.P.H., professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, was chosen by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to coordinate the research of this consortium of national experts, which will be called the NHLBI Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium. The coordinating center will be funded by a $30 million grant over seven years.

"This consortium was developed to bring together the best and brightest researchers from around the country, in the new and rapidly advancing field of stem and progenitor cell biology. They come from several specialties -- cardiology, hematology and pulmonary medicine. All are doing cutting edge research in this exciting new field," says Dr. Terrin.

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the School of Medicine states, "We have the full resources of the University of Maryland School of Medicine available for the benefit of this project, including a world-class Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine."

Stem cells are uncommitted cells that can change into many types of mature functional cell and can divide indefinitely. Progenitor cells, on the other hand, are partially committed as far as the kinds of cell they can become and how many times they can divide. Once stem cells start to commit to a cell type, they create progenitor cells. One major goal of this research consortium is to use these stem and progenitor cells as regenerative therapy to replace damaged tissues and organs.

The researchers will share their strategies and techniques to identify and characterize how these cells differentiate. Together they will address the challenges of discovering new potential therapies together. The NHLBI believes that by sharing information and working together, across traditional boundaries, consortium members will advance the field of stem cell and progenitor cell biology at a faster pace and realize the potential for new clinical therapies even sooner.

Dr. Terrin and his colleagues on campus have the formidable task of organizing these collaborative efforts of the nine different research hubs in the Consortium. They are Michael J. McCreery, Ph.D., deputy director of the Medical Countermeasures Against Radiological Threats (MCART) within the Department Radiation Oncology and Lynn Schriml, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and a researcher in the School of Medicine's Institute of Genome Sciences (IGS).

Dr. Terrin divides the responsibilities of the Administrative Coordinating Center into three areas: general administration, computer systems for which Dr. McCreery will be the point person and biological information science for which Dr. Schriml will be responsible. "Our team of nationally known experts, and the facilities at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, made our proposal to coordinate this consortium unique," Dr. Terrin says, "The resources here are wonderful. I know of no other university or medical school that I would rather have behind my efforts on behalf of this important project."

The Consortium investigators will need to communicate by voice, videoconference and digital media, as well as have access 24-7 to highly secure computer facilities to work on their projects together. The research coordination team led by Dr. Terrin is composed of individuals who can assure that the information they put on the system, as well as records of samples and tissues they put in registries (physical and virtual) will be maintained. They will ensure that important information from sources outside the Consortium is continually updated. Dr. Terrin's team will coordinate conference calls, meetings and funding for their research projects seamlessly and help the investigators publicize their results of their research.

Curt Civin, M.D., associate dean for Research, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine states, "Our team is responsible for computer systems that operate at the highest level of regulatory standards. Our team has doctoral level expertise in biological sciences and has decades of experience in the administration of multi-center collaborations, as well as an Oscar-winning production company, MedSchool Maryland Productions, which will help researchers with video presentations for the public."

Dr. Reece also adds, "Running the coordinating center of this consortium here is ideal since the state of Maryland provides the perfect supportive environment for stem cell research through their Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund."
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University of Maryland Medical Center

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