Published: 22-06-2010 00:00 | Updated: 26-11-2013 10:24

SEK 100 million for research into regenerative medicine

[PRESS RELEASE, 22 June 2010] Karolinska Institutet has received a grant of SEK 100 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation for a regenerative medicine research centre - the Wallenberg Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WIRM). This funding will give Karolinska Institutet a unique opportunity to concentrate on new and pioneering research, with a special focus on the blood system.

Director Urban LendahlPhoto: Camilla Svensk

Regenerative research and stem-cell research are two areas in which revolutionary scientific advances have been made in recent years. The Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet has long held a leading international position in these rapidly developing fields.

"The establishment of WIRM represents a unique opportunity to bring Karolinska Institutet's internationally leading basic research and clinical research together at a completely new centre. It will make it possible to address research issues we currently lack the resources to tackle," says Professor Urban Lendahl, Scientific Director of WIRM.

Growing knowledge of stem cells and regenerative medicine has opened up completely new avenues for the treatment of a number of diseases. The research at WIRM will cover a broad range of areas of therapy, but will focus in particular on the blood system and on the continued development of bone-marrow transplantation for those medical conditions and groups of patients that cannot currently be treated.

"It's tremendously pleasing and flattering that the bicentenary of Karolinska Institutet is being marked with this generous research grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The grant opens up fantastic opportunities for us to pursue pioneering research at the very highest international level in these extremely important areas," says Professor Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, the President of Karolinska Institutet.

Thanks to the grant from the Wallenberg Foundation and the new research centre, Karolinska Institutet's infrastructure in the area is being strengthened through the establishment of advanced technical equipment and new experimental techniques. It is of the greatest strategic significance that the grant makes it possible to recruit key expertise, which will be crucially important in further advancing Sweden's position in this area.

"Having the opportunity to conduct research at Karolinska Institutet is a tremendously attractive prospect. The newly opened WIRM research centre will be well-placed to further strengthen the internationally leading position of Karolinska Institutet in stem-cell research and regenerative medicine," says Professor Sten Erik W. Jacobsen, a world-leading researcher at Oxford University in the biology and diseases of the blood system, who will now pursue part of his research in collaboration with investigators at Karolinska Institutet and WIRM.

Regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine and stem-cell research are two very rapidly developing areas of research where revolutionary scientific progress has been made in recent years, and where there are high medical hopes that this knowledge will enable diseases to be cured. Stem-cell research aims to understand how the immature cells of the body work and can mature and be "steered" to become specialised cells, for example nerve cells and muscle cells. Regenerative medicine aims to replace damaged or lost tissue with new cells produced from stem cells that have first been grown in the laboratory, or where stem cells from the patient can be directly activated to develop into a desired cell type. Today these technologies are used in bone-marrow transplantation, for example in leukaemia and forms of anaemia, and in skin grafts after burns. But there is good reason to assume that regenerative medicine will play an important role in the future in a number of other areas that currently lack effective therapy, such as diabetes, spinal injuries, heart attacks and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

The Foundation is one of the largest funders of research in Sweden and was established on 19 December 1917, when the bank director K.A. Wallenberg and his wife Alice endowed it with SEK 20 million at Stockholm's Enskilda Bank. Knut and Alice Wallenberg continued to build up the Foundation through a series of donations over three decades. During this period they gradually transferred the greater part of their total assets to the Foundation. Under its statutes, the principal purpose of the Foundation is to promote scientific research, teaching and/or education beneficial to the Kingdom of Sweden. This is to be achieved through direct grants or grants to institutes for such activity.

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