iZumi Bio, a company specializing in stem-cell research used to create a range of treatments, has landed $20 million in first-round funding and a partnership with Kyoto University in Japan to conduct parallel studies and collaborate on the results.

One of the company’s primary investors is Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a firm that has been vocal in its support of stem-cell based therapies for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and muscular dystrophy. Former vice president and Kleiner partner Al Gore announced the firm’s involvement, calling iZumi’s advancement in the area “a very important breakthrough that is filled with promise and hope.” Highland Capital Partners also contributed to the round.

Based in South San Francisco, Calif., iZumi is different from most stem-cell research groups because it focuses exclusively on induced pluripotent stem cells — skin cells that can be endowed with the same pliant properties as stem cells. They are significant because they provide a viable alternative to controversial embryonic stem cells, which have been a political sticking point for years. One of the main goals of the partnership with Kyoto University will be to discern how to best generate pluripotent cells for treatment development.