Lilil Yang

Lilil Yang

The state stem cell agency has awarded $2.8 million in grants to UCLA and City of Hope National Medical Center for two separate studies employing stem cells to treat cancer.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced July 19 it had awarded $1.4 million to UCLA scientist Lili Yang to develop a cellular therapy for cancer using blood stem cells.

Yang, a researcher at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine, will work to genetically modify blood-forming stem cells to create large supplies of invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT) to fight different cancers.

“The treatment protocol we will test with this funding has the potential to become an affordable, universal and off-the-shelf therapy for multiple cancers,” said Yang, a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a statement.

The stem cell agency also awarded City of Hope a nearly $1.4 million grant to develop a CAR-T therapy using engineered stem cells to treat recurrent ovarian cancer.

CIRM was created 14 years ago when California voters overwhelmingly approved a $3 billion bond measure for stem cell research and facilities across the state. As of July, it had distributed $2.5 billion in 984 grants to more than 122 California institutions and private companies.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.