Lifespan announces $10-million federal grant to support stem cell research

August 30, 2017

Lifespan research leadership was joined Tuesday, August 29 by local and federal elected officials to announce and celebrate a recent $10-million, 5-year Phase II COBRE grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to support ongoing research in the area of stem cell biology. Promising applications for the research include regeneration and repair for the treatment of leukemia, lymphomas, various neurodegenerative disorders and different aspects of aging.

Speaking at the afternoon announcement were Lifespan President and CEO Timothy J. Babineau, M.D., Lifespan Sr. VP and Chief Research Officer Peter J. Snyder, Ph.D., Lifespan Cancer Institute Chief of Hematology/Oncology Howard P. Safran, M.D., principal investigator Peter J. Quesenberry, M.D., Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

In 2009, Rhode Island Hospital was awarded Phase I funding to develop the COBRE (Center of Biomedical Research Excellence) Center for Stem Cell Biology. Since then, the Center has developed comprehensive research methods in stem cell biology and aging, and assembled an outstanding team of investigators under the leadership of principal investigator Dr. Quesenberry.

The renewal of the grant allows Lifespan and Rhode Island Hospital to update research infrastructure for expanded studies into normal and malignant stem cells. In turn, these upgrades in infrastructure will enhance the health system’s focus on establishing a comprehensive cancer and stem cell program that will foster the development of novel treatment strategies, conduct nationally recognized research efforts, and devise effective methods of cancer prevention.

“With the COBRE Center’s renowned expertise in stem cell research and the rapidly expanding capabilities of our Lifespan Cancer Institute, we are proud to offer our region all the benefits of a national leader in cancer care and research,” said Dr. Babineau.

“This continued funding allows us to deepen our interdisciplinary research team and to move forward the promising work we’ve already accomplished,” said Dr. Quesenberry. “We are developing cooperative research groups to address important medical problems.”

The goals of the Phase II grant are:

  • To expand the core COBRE group with researchers working on this same theme, through various activities which will reach out to the community, including pilot project opportunities, local symposiums, and mentoring partnership options for graduate and undergraduate students to local research institutions.
  • To enhance the ability of investigators to compete for peer-reviewed research support.
  • To recruit and retain a well-established faculty with experience in stem cell biology and aging, maintaining an outstanding research community and helping to advance the study of stem cell biology.

Two of the funded projects involve neural stem cells, while two focus on hematopoietic stem cells found in bone marrow.

“Rhode Island’s medical researchers are tackling some of the most important challenges in their fields and laying the groundwork for promising new treatments. Congratulations to Rhode Island Hospital’s team on winning this federal grant to expand its work uncovering the causes of tough illnesses,” said Whitehouse. “Lifesaving work like this is why I fight to ensure the federal government is investing in medical research.”

“It's amazing to see this lifesaving technology and research expand right here in Providence,” said Elorza. “I want to thank Senator Whitehouse and our entire federal delegation for their fierce advocacy for our city and state in Washington.”

Media Contact

Christina Spaight O'Reilly

Rhode Island Hospital