Aastrom Biosciences Inc. has been awarded a grant totalingabout $1.2 million under a new Commerce Department programto develop a system for growing human stem cells.

The Ann Arbor, Mich., company will use the funds, to beprovided over two years, to develop prototype systems forboth isolating and expanding populations of stem andprogenitor cells that are the basis for all other blood cells.

Companies such as SyStemix Inc. (NASDAQ:STMX), AppliedImmune Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:AISX), CellPro Inc.(NASDAQ:CPRO) and Baxter Healthcare Corp. are developingtechnology to isolate stem cells that can be used to reconstitutethe body's immune system.

Douglas Armstrong, president and chief executive, saidAastrom's approach is not based on purification. "The majordifference is that we can selectively expand early-stage cells,"said Armstrong, adding that the different approaches might becomplementary.

The company holds an exclusive license to the technology fromthe University of Michigan. The award is from the AdvancedTechnology Program administered by the National Institute ofStandards and Technology. -- KB

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