COLUMBIA, Md. (September 20, 2023) - The Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission (MSCRC) announces grant awards totaling approximately $4 million dedicated to fostering innovative research that will propel advancements in stem cell treatments and technologies across Maryland.
12 outstanding scientists hailing from Maryland-based research institutions and companies have been selected as recipients of these prestigious grants. Among the distinguished awardees are researchers from esteemed academic institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University and the University System of Maryland, and early-stage companies, including Secretome Therapeutics, Inc. (formerly NeoProgen), Renovate Biosciences, Inc., and Phycin, Inc. The funds are intended to bolster the development of treatments and cures for a diverse range of illnesses including those involving the liver, eyes, blood, bones, heart, nervous system, autoimmune system, and cancer.
Notably, one-quarter of the awards support projects conducted by Maryland companies. With the exception of the Launch program, which invites applications from scientists new to the stem cell research field, this round of funding focused on fostering continued research and development on previously funded projects to bring these innovative technologies closer to clinical application, offering hope to patients presented with limited treatment options.
Ruchika Nijhara, PhD, executive director of the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund (MSCRF), expressed pride in the achievements of these prior awardees, highlighting their progress toward clinical application with a tangible impact on patients’ lives. Nijhara emphasized, "We recognize that consistent funding plays a pivotal role in the development of affordable, life-changing therapies. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing vital support to researchers and companies across Maryland as they work to realize the potential of their groundbreaking stem cell-based discoveries and transformative therapies, reshaping the future of medicine."
To date, the MSCRC has dedicated over $200 million to support nearly 600 research projects. This funding spans various stages of technology development, ranging from basic research to translational research, clinical development, and product manufacturing. "We are thrilled to witness the remarkable strides our awardees have taken in advancing their pioneering discoveries toward clinical application. We hold great hope that these groundbreaking innovations will bring about enduring improvements in patient care and overall well-being," said Diane Hoffmann, chair of the Maryland Stem Cell Commission.
The funding for the first round of FY24 was supported by a budget of $20.5 million from Gov. Wes Moore and the Maryland General Assembly. This reflects the continuing dedication of Maryland's leadership to the advancement of stem cell research and the quest for groundbreaking medical innovations. The Commission is preparing to release Requests for Applications (RFAs) for its second round of FY24 funding, anticipating a continued acceleration of pioneering research and innovative cures through the various programs of the MSCRF.
The 12 funded grant proposals in their relevant categories are listed below.
- Launch: This award is to encourage new and new-to-the-field faculty to bring innovative research and technology to the regenerative medicine field. Totaling $1,394,899, the four Launch Award recipients are Drs. Mark Ranek, Xiaoning Han, Ali Shakeri-Zadeh, and Luo Gu from Johns Hopkins University.
- Commercialization: This award is for Maryland-based companies to develop diagnostics, treatments, and cures using stem cells. Totaling $1,196,000, the three Commercialization Award recipients are Secretome Therapeutics, Inc. (Dr. Rachana Mishra), Renovate Biosciences, Inc. (Dr. Bhanu Telugu), and Phycin, Inc. (Dr. Jun Wang).
- Validation: This award supports faculty at Maryland-based Universities/Research institutes with IP for human stem cell-based technologies that require additional validation. Totaling $479,990, the two Validation award recipients are Drs. Sheikh Amer Riazuddin and Elias Zambidis from Johns Hopkins University.
- Discovery: These awards fund innovative ideas to develop novel human stem cell-based technologies and cures. Totaling $344,967, the Discovery Award recipient is Dr. Satoru Otsuru from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
- Post-Doctoral Fellowship: These awards support exceptional post-doctoral fellows conducting research in Maryland. Totaling $260,000, the two Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award recipients include Dr. Hongjun Zhang from Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Joe Kodama from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
About the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission
The Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission is focused on identifying and fostering cutting-edge research and innovation in the field of regenerative medicine in Maryland. Our Accelerating Cures initiative comprises programs that help transition human stem cell-based technologies from the bench to the bedside as well as mechanisms to build and grow stem cell companies in Maryland. Visit us at www.mscrf.org to learn more about our funding opportunities.