BioWorld International Correspondent

LUND, Sweden - Lund University is establishing a new institute for stem cell research, following its receipt of SEK12 million (US$1.3 million) funding from the Swedish Research Council to set up a research network that will investigate fundamental aspects of stem cell biology.

The Lund Center for Stem Cell Biology and Cell Therapy officially will open its doors in January under the leadership of Sten Eirik Jacobsen, head of the university's stem cell biology department. Based in the university's BioMedical Center, it will have about a dozen principal investigators, a total staff of 150 and a total research budget of about five times the research council grant.

The center is the biggest single grant recipient from Sweden's new Joint Program on Stem Cell Research, which was established earlier this year through a partnership between the New York-based Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Association of Diabetes Research. (See BioWorld International, March 27, 2002.)

The facility, Jacobsen said, will bring together a disparate set of activities, ranging from the genetics of stem cells through to cell replacement therapies. It will, he said, be one of the biggest in Europe for preclinical and clinical stem cell work. It also will build industry linkages and will devise a technology transfer and business development program.

Danish firm NsGene A/S, of Ballerup, which is developing cell and gene therapies for CNS diseases, already has agreed to establish a lab within the facility. "We already know that this is something that is very attractive for industry," Jacobsen said.

Up to now, the stem cell research effort at Lund has focused primarily on adult hematopoietic and neural stem cells, but the university is planning to recruit senior investigators to establish an embryonic stem cell research effort as well. Jacobsen's group is investigating topics such as the molecular mechanisms underlying hematopoietic stem cell fate decisions, the characterization of hematopoietic stem cells in patients with hematologic malignancies and the potential of hematopoietic stem cells to adapt to non-hematopoietic cell fates.

Anders Björklund, one of the institute's principal investigators, is investigating the potential of stem cell transplantation strategies for late-stage Parkinson's disease. Another group, headed by Ole Lindvall, recently demonstrated the induction of self-repair mechanisms in a rat model of stroke. That work was published in the September 2002 issue of Nature Medicine in a paper titled "Neuronal replacement from endogenous precursors in the adult brain after stroke."

The recent round of research funding from the Swedish Research Council will support nine research groups, based at Lund University, Uppsala University, Gothenburg University and the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm. In addition to Lund, one other center has received a larger, network grant. Lars hrlund-Richter at the Karolinksa Institute is leading an SEK10.5 million project on the derivation, characterization and banking of human embryonic stem cells.