The Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council have announced a £12.75 million investment to create a database of iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells).
The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative (HIPSCI) aims to use the iPS cell database to study the effects of genetic variation on human health and disease and facilitate the translation of genetic research into clinical applications. The initiative will also provide the foundation for the creation of an iPS cell bank.
The HIPSCI project will be led by King's College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and will involve collaborations with a number of research institutions, including the University of Cambridge, the University of Dundee and University College London (UCL).
The initiative will generate iPS cells from 1,000 healthy volunteers and people with genetic diseases. Researchers will investigate the effect of genetic variation on the behaviour of the cells - how they transform into specialised cell types and behave in response to external stimuli. Collaboration with NHS investigators will link clinical information to these genetic studies.
Professor Fiona Watt, Director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King's College London, said: 'The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative brings together world-leading expertise in clinical genetics, stem cell biology and genomic technologies. We believe that this research will drive forward the translation of basic research into improved diagnosis and treatment of disease'.
Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: 'The field of [iPS] cell research was made possible thanks to the seminal discoveries of Sir John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who were last month awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for their work.
'This is a field in which the UK remains at the cutting edge. Our investment in this new initiative should further strengthen the UK's position and lead to patient benefit'.
Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC, said: 'By investing in a UK-wide initiative in iPS cell technology, we hope to propel UK researchers to the forefront of this rapidly evolving field and provide an invaluable stock of high-quality cell lines for use by academia and industry alike'.