WESTWOOD—Lili Yang, a member of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center was recently awarded a $7.6 million grant to continue research involving stem cell research. Yang is an assistant professor in the UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics. According to a press release from the UCLA newsroom website, the funding was awarded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Yang is hoping to engineer the body’s immune system to give it the ability to attack and kill cancerous cells that will not harm healthy tissues. “The human immune system is equipped to fight many types of pathogens, but often it is unable to fight diseases such as cancer,” states the press release.

Through genetically engineering blood-forming stem cells, Yang will be able to create a unique white blood cell that will be able to kill tumor cells and activate other immune cells to eliminate cancerous tumors.

Yang’s grant in the amount of $7,659,309 is the biggest of seven awards funded by CIRM’s governing board under the 2.0 Translation Program. The program supports projects that will be ready to enter clinical trials within 30 months.

“We are grateful for this new funding opportunity from CIRM, which will allow us to bring to the clinic a novel stem cell-based immunotherapy that has the potential to treat a broad range of cancers and a large population of cancer patients,” said Yang.