Sunday, April 15, 2018

Fleshing Out the Details: Inside the California Stem Cell Agency's Fledgling Industry Partnership Program

 California's $3 billion stem cell agency has released details on just what is involved in its new collaboration with industry, giving select companies "direct access" to the hundreds of millions of dollars in research that the state has financed. 

The effort involves creation of "robust data rooms," nondisclosure agreements and licensing templates, among other things, and owes a debt to the agency's moribund, $150 million public-private partnership proposal (ATP3).  The new program is aimed at speeding development of stem cell therapies as the agency faces its possible demise in the next couple of years. 

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known, has dubbed the collaboration as the Industry Alliance Program (IAP). It  already has two partners from the private sector, BlueRock Therapeutics of Cambridge, Mass., and Vivo Capital of Palo Alto, and the agency is looking for more. 

Q & A: Data Rooms and More

Neil Littman, CIRM photo
CIRM disclosed more information about the program in response to questions from the California Stem Cell Report (CSCR). Here is the agency's reply from Neil Littman, CIRM's business development officer. It includes a response to a comment filed last week on the original article by an anonymous reader concerning access to research.

CSCR: "What does 'direct access' to CIRM’s growing stem cell portfolio' mean? Will grantees be asked to share their results with these companies....or will CIRM just give out grantees' proprietary information to these companies?"

Littman:  "CIRM will never share proprietary information without the consent of the awardee and the awardee’s institution. In addition, in order to access non-public information, IAP partners (just like everyone else) will need to execute a confidentiality agreement with the awardee’s institution. 'Direct access' implies CIRM’s role in helping IAP partners navigate CIRM’s large and growing portfolio and facilitating introductions when it is mutually agreed upon by the awardee and IAP partner."

CSCR: "It would be useful to discuss with more specificity this language from the IAP agreements: "...diligence process through template legal agreements, such as non-disclosure agreements and licensing templates, and robust data rooms."

Littman: "What does CIRM mean by diligence process? The term due diligence refers to the process of how a company evaluates technology before making an investment. This is often a lengthy review process where the company evaluates items such as preclinical clinical and clinical data, CMC information, and regulatory correspondence. CIRM will help streamline this process by working with the awardee and awardee’s institution to gather all the information in one place for the collaborator to review (this is commonly referred to as a 'data room').

"Why are template agreements useful to collaborators? The template legal agreements provide standardized language which help save time for both the collaborator and the awardee institution. Many features of the agreements will still need to be negotiated, such as the economics of a specific deal, but the templates serve as a starting point."

Son of ATP3

CSCR: These arrangements appear to be descended from CIRM's ATP3 proposal. How did the partnership program emerge? How did those two companies come to be the first to be involved? 

Littman: "Yes, the IAP is descended from ATP3 and is meant to achieve the same goal: increasing the pull from industry in order to increase the number of partnerships. BlueRock and Vivo Capital were selected for a variety of reasons, including: 1) Demonstrated commitment to advancing stem cell treatments to patients (i.e. they have already made investments in the space) 2) Continued commitment to investing in stem cell programs in the future, 3) They are well capitalized with the ability to invest in CIRM-funded programs."

Text of IAP Agreement

Here is the text of the signed agreement with BlueRock, which was requested by the California Stem Cell Report. The agreement with Vivo is identical.
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