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Salk scientist receives CIRM award

Inder Verma

Inder Verma

Inder Verma professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology, received a $2.3 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) as part of its Early Translational IV Research awards. The program is designed to fund research that will help shift stem cell research from the laboratory to practical use with the development of new potential drug or patient therapies.

Verma, holder of the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Chair in Exemplary Life Science, is one of the world's leading authorities on the development of viruses for gene therapy vectors. He uses genetically engineered viruses to insert new genes into cells that can then be returned to the body, where they produce the essential protein whose absence causes disease. Verma and Salk colleagues developed a gene therapy vector, based on a stripped-down version of HIV that can deliver genes to non-dividing cells, which constitute the majority of the cells in our bodies. They have used this vector successfully to deliver the clotting factor gene to laboratory animals and to transfer a therapeutic gene to retinal cells to mice with an inborn deficiency. Verma's lab is also studying two genes implicated in familial breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and recently demonstrated that their action is linked to the cell's division cycle and that BRCA1 regulates gene activity.

CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research.