UC San Diego plans to open stem cell center: $100M donation made by billionaire T. Denny Sanford

SAN DIEGO - The University of California San Diego is creating a stem cell clinical center to speed research into new drugs and therapies.

UC San Diego officials announced Monday that South Dakota billionaire businessman T. Denny Sanford has committed $100 million to the creation of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center.

Sanford's gift, however, comes with specific instructions.

"It's time to take stem cell research away from laboratory animals and begin clinical trials on people," he said.

The center will integrate operations at four locations: the UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center and a nearby proposed clinical space, both scheduled to open in 2016; the UC San Diego Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine; and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.

"This is a bell weather event," said Lawrence Goldstein, who heads the department at UC San Diego.  

The idea is to bolster the research being done on campus as well at several other research facilities on the Torrey Pines mesa and collectively move the effort into clinical trials on people.

"This will bring hope to people who are fighting these unbelievable diseases like Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer," Goldstein said.  

The goal is to begin the clinical trials at the new Jacobs Medical Center.

Sanford, who has made other contributions to stem cell research in San Diego, said his mother died of breast cancer and his father passed away from heart disease.  

"This is going to work, and I'm going to make damn sure it will work," he said.  

The $100 million gift is the second largest; the first of $110 million was given to the UCSD School of Engineering by Irwin Jacobs, who founded Qualcomm.

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