Tuesday, September 26, 2017

$80 Million Stem Cell Infusion Coming Up in California

The state of California is expected to plunk down roughly $80 million this week for stem cell research and clinical trials as it moves to widen their access and develop a therapy that fulfills promises to voters nearly 13 years ago.

The awards are scheduled to be ratified Thursday during a meeting of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the $3 billion state stem cell agency is known.

The largest chunk of cash consists of $64 million for six applications for help in clinical trials, the last stage before a therapy is approved for widespread use.

Another $16 million is slated to go to expand the Alpha Clinic stem cell program, especially in Northern and Central California. NoA $7.9 million award is set to go to UC Davis, which won unanimous approval earlier from CIRM reviewers. Cedars-Sinai and UC San Francisco/Children's Hospital Oakland are likely to be competing for remaining $8 million.

Three Alpha Clinics, which are aimed at conducting clinical trials,  already exist in Southern California. This week's action will bring them north for the first time with an emphasis on the 33-county area served by UC Davis. (See here, here and here for more on the Alpha network.)

The stem cell agency was created in 2004 when voters approved a ballot initiative in a campaign that led voters to believe that cures were right around the corner. The agency has yet to help finance a therapy that has widespread application.

CIRM is also down to its last $600 million or so and projects that it will run out of cash for new awards by mid 2020. The agency's governing board is examining its financial options. Action on the issue is scheduled to be taken in December.

Also on the table Thursday is the approval of a new president for CIRM. Maria Millan, the interim CEO, is likely to get the job.

The session will take place in Oakland but teleconference locations will be in the Los Angeles area, Stanford, La Jolla and San Diego where the public can also participate. The meeting can also be heard in an audiocast. Details and addresses can be found on the agenda.

The California Stem Cell Report will provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Thursday meeting from CIRM headquarters in Oakland, filing updates as warranted throughout the day.

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