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State hands out stem cell awards hoping to keep research in Maryland

The Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission has approved awards of more than $8.5 million for companies and research institutes to address more than 20 diseases and conditions.

The money will be spread among six companies and six research institutes in the state.

“The high level of work that our stem cell researchers and companies are performing is a testament to Maryland’s status as a national leader in the life sciences industry,” said Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement.

The commission has awarded $139 million to more than 400 stem cell projects since the panel was created by the legislature through the Maryland Stem Cell Research Act of 2006. The Maryland Technology Development Corporation administers the fund.

For projects to be funded by the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission, research must be conducted in Maryland and include the use of human stem cells.

This years’ awards are the first since Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which increased the rate at which new drugs and therapies can be approved by the FDA.

With the money supporting Maryland projects, TEDCO hopes that more research and eventually commercialization of projects will take place in Maryland instead of moving out of state.

“The timing couldn’t be better for Maryland stem cell researchers and companies to get their solutions to the patient,” said John Wasilisin, the president of TEDCO, in a statement. ‘Our … Accelerating Cures Initiative helps them do precisely that.”

The Accelerating Cures Initiative was created last year by the commission to help regenerative medicine and cell therapy technologies move through the tech transfer process, from research through to commercialization.

The money disbursed this year reflects that goal, with funds going towards every step of the process.

Of the 29 awards distributed this year:

  • Two awards totaling $1.5 million will go towards organizations conducting clinical trials;
  • Four awards totaling $1.2 million will go towards creating startups;
  • Three awards totaling $690,000 will help researchers who discovered new technologies go through the validation process;
  • 12 awards totaling $4.1 million will fund research, including research at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, Baltimore; and
  • Eight awards totaling $1 million will support post-doctoral fellows who want to conduct research in Maryland.

The post-doctoral fellows will include two at the University of Maryland, College Park and six at Johns Hopkins.

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