fetal surgeon Diana Farmer and bioengineer Aijun Wang
From left: Fetal surgeon Diana Farmer and bioengineer Aijun Wang.

$15M Awarded for Groundbreaking Work on Spina Bifida Treatment

Professor of Biomedical Engineering Aijun Wang and team of UC Davis Health researchers will carry out phase 2 of CuRe clinical trial

A team of UC Davis Health researchers, led by pioneering fetal surgeon Diana Farmer and Professor of Biomedical Engineering Aijun Wang, has been awarded nearly $15 million for groundbreaking work on a spina bifida treatment. The funding will allow the team to carry out phase 2 of a clinical trial that tests the first stem cell treatment for the birth defect. Spina bifida, also known as myelomeningocele, occurs when spinal tissue in a fetus fails to fuse properly during the early stages of pregnancy.

Launched in the spring of 2021, the CuRe clinical Trial (Cellular Therapy for In Utero Repair of Myelomeningocele) tests a one-of-a-kind treatment that uses placenta-derived stem cells to improve outcomes for children with spina bifida. The treatment, a stem cell patch, is delivered directly to the spinal opening of the fetus while still developing in the mother’s womb.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) approved an $8.9 million grant to fund the CuRe trial. Shriners Children’s matched this funding with a $5.9 million grant.

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