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Regenerative medicine conference points to new research opportunities

Candace Kerr
Candace KERR [Former NIA Staff],
Health Scientist Administrator,

Among the initiatives launched under the 21st Century Cures Act, which brought us the Cancer Moonshot, the BRAIN initiative, and the All of Us precision medicine program, is the Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project (RMIP). NIH, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is taking the lead on this exciting new venture, which seeks to accelerate clinical research on adult stem cells while promoting the highest standards for conducting research and protecting patient safety. RMIP offers exciting possibilities for aging research, which we are beginning to explore.

A gathering of minds

Just a few weeks ago, more than 400 experts from academia, industry, and private foundations met with staff from multiple NIH institutes and the FDA in Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss the future of adult stem cell therapies. Cochaired by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Director Dr. Gary Gibbons and FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks, the gathering assessed the state of the science and the basis for developing safe and effective regenerative products targeting adult stem cells.

Importantly, the meeting resulted in plans to publish Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) later this year. Similar to supplements funded last year, applicants must obtain dollar-for-dollar non-federal matching funds for these applications. The workshop agenda (PDF, 284K), speaker biographies (PDF, 2.6M), and videos of each session are available online. Based on a set of key questions, the workshop was designed to identify scientific, technical, and operational challenges and highlight strategies for enabling major advances and development of clinical applications using adult stem cells.

A focus on aging

Many cutting-edge findings relevant to the aging community were presented and discussed. For example:

  • Dr. Joshua Hare focused on treating frailty in older people with mesenchymal stem cell transplantation, reporting results of seven promising Phase II clinical trials.
  • Dr. Robert Mays reported safety and efficacy results of a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled Phase II trial which used multipotent adult progenitor cells to treat ischemic stroke in middle aged and older adults.
  • Dr. Lorenz Studor described phase I trials using stem cell-based treatments for Parkinson’s disease.  
  • Dr. Sean Savitz spoke on the importance of matching the appropriate cell types and states of maturation to particular diseases. He also mentioned the need to understand the mechanisms involved in more complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Upcoming funding opportunities

The workshop recommendations have led to several planned initiatives in FY 2018. As many as 12 NIH Institutes and the FDA are supporting this effort. Three initiatives will focus on clinical trial research for nonprofit organizations and small businesses, while three others will invite applications for research that does not require a clinical trial (U01, UT1/UT2, U43/U44). The Notices of Intent to Publish are now available at:

To help would-be applicants, a list of frequently asked questions is available on the Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project website. Please feel free to post your comments or additional questions so we can make sure we add them to the list. In the meantime, keep an eye out for these initiatives, coming soon!

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