Two researchers receive $6 million in state stem cell funds

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) awarded two School of Medicine professors about $3 million each to pursue translational stem cell research for hearing loss and for cognitive dysfunction caused by chemotherapy.

Alan Cheng

ALAN CHENG, assistant professor of otolaryngology, will receive $3.1 million to investigate the biology of hair cells and their progenitors in the inner human ear. These cells do not normally regenerate, and their loss is a major cause of hearing disorders, which affect over 278 million people worldwide.

Michelle Monje

MICHELLE MONJE, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences, was awarded $2.8 million to investigate ways to identify and harness molecules involved in the regeneration and repair of neural white matter damaged by chemotherapy. Her goal is to create a drug therapy for chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction, also known as “chemobrain,” which affects more than 1 million cancer survivors in California.

The awards are part of a total of more than $36 million for the New Faculty Physician Scientist Translational Research Awards, which are intended to support physician-scientists aiming to bring stem cell therapies into the clinic.

“These awards help physician-scientists in the critical early stages of their careers, providing them salary and research support for up to five years,” CIRM President ALAN TROUNSON said in a statement. “With this support, we are hoping to create a whole new group of world-class researchers in California.”

Read the full announcement on the Medical School’s news website.