MStem Cell Lab History (and past funding): Before 2008 it was illegal to derive a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) in the State of Michigan. In 2005-2006, University of Michigan (UM) President, Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, tasked a group of legal, policy, public, and scientific experts to draft an amendment to our State of Michigan Constitution to address this restriction. I (Gary D. Smith) was fortunate to be a participant. Signatures were collected and Michigan Prop 08-02 went on the ballot in 2008. Going into the election, opposition to Michigan Prop 08-02 had spent approximately seven times more money in advertisements compared to supporters.
Mr. A. Alfred Taubman was passionate about possibilities of stem cells in healthcare and provided funds for advertising in support of Michigan Prop 08-02. In November 2008, Michigan Prop 08-02 passed 52% to 48%. In March 2009, MStem Cell Lab was founded (as part of the Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies), and was funded by the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute (AATMRI), Med School Endowment for Basic Sciences (EBS), the UM Health System Executive Vice President(s) of Medical Affairs (UMHS EVPMA; Dr. Kelch/Dr. Pescovitz), and numerous Chairs in the Medical School). MStem Cell Lab became highly successful in derivation of disease specific (ds)-hESCs and facilitating the use of ds-hESCs across campus, the nation, and worldwide. Mr. A. Alfred Taubman continued to be an active supporter and funder of MStem Cell Lab during its initial development, expansion, and success.
It is important to appreciate that MStem Cell Labs hESC derivation CANNOT be supported with federal funds (NIH, USDA, DOD, NSF). This means laboratory space, personnel, equipment, and supplies must be paid for with non-federal funds (private grants, internal funds, philanthropy, self-generated revenue). In 2015/2016, the administrative decision was made to have MStem Cell Lab be a “stand-alone” laboratory. The three-year funding model involved shared support by the UM President’s Office, Medical School Dean’s Office, UMHS EVPMA, AATMRI, and Department of Ob/Gyn (space); with reductions in funding each year to encourage MStem Cell Lab Funding sustainability.
Since 2019, MStem Cell Lab functions have been supported by: 1) UM/Peking University Joint Institutes Grant to G.D. Smith; 2) American Society for Reproductive Medicine Research Institute Grant to G.D. Smith; 3) a 300K gift from an Anonymous Donor; 4) shared grants with disease-specific researchers; 5) Department of Ob/Gyn (partial space cost); and 6) stem cell sales, licensing revenue, gifts/donations. From these sources we currently are working on an extremely limited budget, with funds available until 12/2022.
MStem Cell Lab Mission: To derive new stem cells and model systems and distribute them into the University of Michigan and worldwide research community, accelerate the understanding of human diseases, and develop new treatments and cures using novel disease-specific hESC lines, while engaging and educating public and research communities.
MStem Cell Lab has become the leading U.S. program in production and NIH registration of monogenic disease specific human embryonic stem cells (ds-hESCs). There are over 400 known monogenic diseases that can be modelled with ds-hESCs. Once these ds-hESCs are produced, expanded, frozen, characterized, and registered with the NIH, they can be (and are being) distributed nationally and internationally. Recall, these ds-hESCs are non-restricted in their viability and expansion; meaning they are an everlasting resource for monogenic disease research and can be distributed over the next 10, 20, 100, 1000 years. As more of these ds-hESCs are produced within a monogenic disease (producing individual disease replicates) and of different disease, their demand will expand. Additionally, as more researchers use these ds-hESCs in their studies and publish results, the demand will increase. However, MStem Cell Lab’s contribution to the mission (visions) of the UM, and Michigan Medicine, is much larger than just the number of cell lines produced. As envisioned by Mr. A. Alfred Taubman, MStem Cell Lab hESCs have become the national/international hub of the wheels of discoveries of disease causes/consequences, design and screening of disease treatments, and fostering novel disease cures today and in the future.