Cambridge and Sheffield universities this week emerged as clear winners in the race for government stem-cell research grants.
Awards totalling £16.5 million were announced by five of the country's research councils after a major cash boost for stem-cell research in the 2002 spending review. It is hoped the money will put the UK in the leading position in international stem-cell research.
In all, 57 awards were made to universities and research institutes across the UK. Cambridge received the greatest number of awards, with eight research grants totalling £2.24 million. Sheffield followed close behind with seven grants totalling £2.6 million.
As well as funding for more specific research proposals, Sheffield was awarded just under £1 million for a human embryonic stem-cell resource centre.
Cambridge is expected to make an announcement in the next couple of months of new funding for a stem-cell research centre.
The grants were awarded by the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils.
Some of the awards are aimed at delivering treatments for diseases and disabilities, while others will focus on improving understanding of stem-cell function.
Bertie Gottgens, leukaemia research fund lecturer in the department of haemotology at Cambridge, has secured almost £300,000 to investigate how genes are regulated in mesenchymal stem cells, which generate bone and cartilage. He said: "The UK is definitely one of the most exciting places for stem-cell research, and Cambridge is at the centre."
Dr Gottgens added: "In the US, they are a bit scared about stem-cell research, but I don't think they will maintain that hostile position."