Monday, July 07, 2008

Text of Reconsideration Letter From Cascade

Here is the text of the reconsideration letter from Cascade concerning its application for a grant from the California stem cell agency.

July 3, 2008
Mr. Robert Klein, J.D.
Chairman, ICOC Committee
210 King Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Re: Request for Reconsideration - New Cell Line Development RFA 07-05 Review Process

Dear Committee Member:
Last Thursday evening, 26 June 2008, I had the pleasure of appearing before your Committee, officially on behalf of Cascade LifeSciences (See Exhibit A) and perhaps unofficially as a voice for industry, regarding our expectations and experience with the RFA and Grant Review noted above. To quote Mark Twain, “I apologize for the length of my letter; I did not have time to write a shorter one.” Three minutes to comment on a $1MM decision is remarkably challenging. For the benefit of the Committee and with the luxury of a written response, let me see if I can more clearly articulate our expectations, experience and suggestions going forward.

First, I would like to start at the beginning. Prop. 71 is a very innovative and groundbreaking paradigm shift in the funding of research. We applaud the CIRM mission and the stewardship of the Committee. The mission statement of Prop. 71 makes very clear that although science is a laudable goal it is not the end game. Products that treat, cure, or enhance our lives are the end game. Fast forward 10 to 15 years and I would like to be so bold as to suggest that the ultimate arbiter of the success of CIRM or Prop. 71 will be PRODUCTS. Not research achievements, not publications, not patents, not even Nobel Prizes. All of these are important milestones that will advance our efforts and may even contribute to the economy of California. But “John Q. Public” will only benefit directly by the development of innovative stem cell related PRODUCTS that I believe will change medical approaches to disease in fundamental ways.

In the interest of full disclosure, I prefer to admit my biases up front. I have a bias toward products. I am also a lawyer, the Chief Business Officer of Cascade LifeSciences, and a taxpayer. My product bias has been cultivated over 20 years with two of the San Diego biotech pioneers, Hybritech and IDEC. (See Exhibit B, Background). What I know about Stem Cells I have learned, but what I know about product development, I have lived.

I believe that industry and CIRM share the same goal of enhancing product development. Although funding cutting edge research and academic inquiry are part of the larger goal, I believe that industry will be the ultimate conduit through which products must run the clinical, regulatory and marketplace gauntlet.

RFA 07-05 and Cascade’s Expectations

Upon understanding that CIRM was opening up funding under the RFA process to for-profit entities, we were quite pleased and encouraged. Funding critically important translational research that can neither be funded by the NIH nor is of interest to all but a very few private investors seems prudent and product focused.

The specific language in the Objective of RFA 07-05 perhaps set our expectation too high:

Page 1 -- Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) , a method for reprogramming that is well-established in several mammalian species, has not yet been achieved with human cells, but recent success has been reported in non-human primates. " [This is Dr. Mitalipov's work published in Nature and exclusively licensed by Cascade]

Page 2. "The needs may in the future be met by derivation of hESC following SCNT..."

Page 2. "CIRM proposes a new program to address the need for new types and sources of human pluripotent stem cell lines and for the optimization of existing methods for their derivation." To be candid, we believed that the translation of our SCNT primate work into the SCNT generation of hESC was right in the "strike zone" of the RFA as written. The alternate non-embryo sourced approach, iPS is a very important scientific avenue of research and should be funded as well. That said, SCNT is a very compelling opportunity to develop genetically matched cell lines that may lead to human therapeutic products.

Cascade’s Grant Review Experience

Our responses to the Reviewers’ comments are beyond the scope of this letter but are attached as Exhibit C for independent review. For the record, we filed a formal request with Dr. Trounson to rebut the conclusions and comments of the reviews but were told by Staff that there was no such process. We were told that the only avenue for rebuttal would be based on conflict of interest. As the reviewers are anonymous, it is unclear how this would ever be realistic. Two additional points are striking in this regard. First, we now understand that after our departure on Thursday evening, Rusty Gage, one of our esteemed colleagues here in San Diego was allowed to rebut reviewer comments and, hence, did receive funding. We are unclear on how this rebuttal process works and why we were denied any opportunity to dialogue on the merits of our grant application. Second, I understand second-hand that an ICOC member believed my discussion at CIRM was flawed, for example, because I did not address the mistake regarding efficiency of our SCNT. This is unfortunate, as we were told our request for rebuttal was rejected and that we were not allowed to discuss the merit or lack of merit of the specific review of our application but our three minutes was limited to expressing our concerns about the process and our suggestions for improvement from an industry perspective.

By way of example, we would like you to better understand the disconnect between our expectations and our experience with this Grant Review. As you will note in Exhibit C, most of the review comments we received on our Grant Application were factually incorrect. We are unable to reconcile the review committees’ comments with the stated objectives of the RFA, the articulated criteria for review and our actual grant submission.

For example, Reviewer #1 comment was:
"Lack of Novelty, pure translation of the non-human primate work into humans."
This seems to defy logic and the mission of human therapeutics. Moreover, this does not seem to be consistent with the objectives published by CIRM in its RFA, which specifically calls out the "hurdle" of human SCNT as a fundable goal. I would venture to suggest that successful application of SCNT to humans will be a scientific achievement and will be an “above the fold” kind of worldwide news story. Finally, at the CIRM ICOC meeting, Dr. Uta Grieshammer, presented the review committees grant criteria and noted specifically that the review team was advised that "novelty" was NOT a priority for these types of grants.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Trounson announced that no SCNT grants had been funded due to some sort of vague policy concern about access to human oocytes and the challenges this had created in other countries. (We are aware of Grant#R31-00404 related to SCNT that was previously funded).

First, this was "moving the goal posts" after we had submitted our grant application. Second, we appreciate the challenge of securing oocytes but we at Cascade had been fortunate enough to secure a collaboration with La Jolla IVF clinic to supply all the oocytes we need to proceed with our cell line development effort. Moreover, if this was truly the reason for flagging our grant application as non-fundable, CIRM should have just told us that in writing and explained how they were going to proceed, if at all, in the area of SCNT.

A factually incorrect assumption about our “efficiency” may have been the fundamental error that doomed our application. The CIRM reviewer commented:
The ability to generate individualized human embryonic stem cell lines using somatic cell nuclear transfer from either healthy individuals or patients with specific disease states is an exciting and yet technically demanding prospect. To date, no one has successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells, although recently, a group at University of Oregon Heath Sciences Center has successfully derived primate embryonic stem cells, with an efficiency of approximately 0.3%
This is factually incorrect at two levels. First, we are unclear where the reviewer got the 0.3% efficiency rate. This is not a number we have used. Our November 2007 Nature paper calls out 0.66% efficiency at page 497. Our grant application (filed Jan 2008) describes in detail at page 8, "These results represent a significant reduction in the number of oocytes required to produce a single ESC line over previously reported efficiency (from 152 to 30) providing the important foundation to conduct the proposed studies in humans." 1 ESC cell line out of 30 oocytes is actually 3.3%.

I am unclear how this fundamental oversight occurred. Mistake? Miscommunication? Pre-existing bias? Misunderstanding? Suffice it to say, we believe that the incorrect information about efficiency was the driving force behind the reviewers’ comments and failure to fund.

Suggestions and Action Items for Consideration.

Our hope is that thru expressing our concerns and our experience we will be able to make industry (For-Profit) a viable partner in the mission of Prop 71. With that in mind, we would like to suggest the following ideas for review and consideration by the ICOC:

Industry representation on CIRM grant review teams

Formal appeal process or ability to respond in writing to reviewer comments. See, for example, SBIR, STTR, NIH funding for models of review cycles.

Holding the review team to the published review criteria--e.g., novelty is not a priority criteria.

One of the review criteria should always be the impact of the research on the advancement of human product development. If the Rusty Gage review reconsideration is as I understand it, it seems that there is one set of rules for a deservingly prominent scientist and a different set of rules for Cascade LifeSciences/Industry. We also filed a letter with CIRM asking for the opportunity to comment on our grant review and were denied. This seems, without more complete information, to be unfair.

Perhaps separate academic/not-for-profit grant application review from for-profit review. Comparing not for profit grants (institutions that are Grant Writing Machines) with the grant applications of fledgling biotech companies is fundamentally unbalanced.

Although I believe that Industry is a key element of Product development and we desire to work with CIRM to advance the cause, if CIRM’s funding criteria or standards are inconsistent with industry participation or pragmatic product development, we need to know that earlier rather than later.

I am personally and professionally committed to assist CIRM in making industry an equal partner in achieving the mission of Prop 71. I would look for guidance from the ICOC on how we can work through some of these administrative and structural challenges.

Although we are disappointed by the CIRM review and admittedly discouraged by the process, I trust that the agency and the applicants will evolve favorably with time and experience.
As our distinguished Governor would say.............."We'll be Back."

Kenneth J. Woolcott
Chief Business Officer
Cascade LifeSciences Inc
10398 Pacific Center Ct.
San Diego, CA 92121

cc: Alan Trounson, President CIRM
Howard Birndorf
Sophia Khaldoyanidi

Exhibit A

Cascade LifeSciences

Founded 2004
San Diego, CA
Howard Birndorf, Chairman
Kenneth Woolcott, Chief Business Officer
Sophia Khaldoyanidi, Ph.D, MD, Chief Scientific Officer
Larry Respess, General Counsel
Exclusive Licensee of Novel SCNT technology developed at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and published in Nature, Nov 2007. (First successfully SCNT in Primates)
Dr. S. Mitalipov, inventor of SCNT patents and consultant on human SCNT effort.
Exhibit B


6100 La Jolla Scenic Drive South
2000 First Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037
Suite 2304
858-454-8496 phone/fax
Seattle, WA 98121
206-795-4667 phone

Strategic Advisor . . . Entrepreneurial Counsel . . . Transactional Architect

Summary: Executive with over 20 years of experience and outstanding accomplishment in the Biopharmaceutical Industry, including 12 plus years of key legal and management responsibilities at IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corporation (now Biogen IDEC) through its growth from a market cap of $50M to a company with a valuation of over $10B. Provided counsel and craftsmanship on over $1B in global corporate alliances and public financings. Contributed legal leadership and team influence in the development and FDA approval of two oncology drugs, RITUXAN (first antibody approved for cancer) and ZEVALIN (first radioimmunotherapy approved for cancer), currently generating annual U.S. sales of over $1.9B. Provided leadership in diverse and challenging roles based on the growth and needs of the organization, for example:

Strategic advisor with entrepreneurial zeal and global biopharma perspective.
Counsel with intra-disciplinary experience, scientific background and a proven track-record of incisive legal analysis and problem-solving.
Executive officer with achievement in operational management, strategic planning, business development, team building, and change agent in development of company’s core values as it grew from 70 to over 800 employees.
General Counsel and Corporate Secretary with broad experience in public company matters, corporate governance, SEC compliance, FDA issues, intellectual property strategy, transactional negotiation and crafting, corporate partner management, litigation management, and government relations.

Woolcott Bioscience Strategies 2002-present
Transactional and Business Development Consulting Services

Chief Business Officer, Cascade Lifesciences Inc 2007 to present

Strategic Advisor 2005 to 2007
Nativis, Inc. San Diego, CA

Acting Vice President, Business Development & General Counsel 2004-2005
Imagine Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, CA

IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp., San Diego, CA 1989-2002

VP, General Counsel, Licensing Executive and Secretary 1994-2002
General Counsel, Licensing Executive and Secretary 1992-1994
Deputy General Counsel and Secretary 1991-1992
Intellectual Property Counsel 1989-1991

Counsel to approximately $700M in IDEC Public Equity & Debt Financings:

Initial public offering (IPO): (1991--$52 M)
Follow-on equity offerings: (1994 – $8M; 1996 -- $50M; 2000 -- $473M)
“LYONS” convertible debt offering: (1999 -- $113M)

Counsel and negotiator for approximately $300M in corporate alliances from 1991-00, including:

Zenyaku/Rituxan – 1991, $10M SmithKline/CD4 – 1992, $60M
Mitsubishi/B7 – 1994, $12M Seikagaku/CD23 – 1995, $26M
Genentech/Rituxan – 1995, $57M Eisai/gp39/CD40L – 1995, $38M
Kirin, BI, and Chugai/ Upjohn/9AC – 1997, $12M
Expression System – 1995-7, $15M
Schering AG/Zevalin –1999, $47M Nordion /Yttrium – 2000, $20M
Member of core team of executives that led turnaround from $50M valuation and six months of cash in 1994 to pivotal Genentech partnership/cash infusion and over 800% increase in stock valuation in 1995.
Managed key patent litigation (IDEC v. Corixa et al), including selection process for lead counsel and development of declaratory judgment strategy over a multi-year period. Strategically, IDEC prevailed in securing venue in San Diego Federal District Court, while actions in Delaware and Northern District of California were dismissed. In October 2003, summary judgment was granted in favor of IDEC declaring invalid and unenforceable all of Corixa’s subject patents. The case was ultimately settled on favorable terms
Executive Committee level advisor on IND, clinical strategy, Advisory Committee meeting, manufacturing subcontracting and inspection, approval and launch of RITUXAN and ZEVALIN.
Early advocate and adopter of Rule 10b-5 executive stock selling plans, including successful initiation of amendment to California State Securities Laws to conform with provisions of new Federal law
Managed preparation and filing of SEC corporate disclosure documents including crafting of numerous sensitive and challenging press releases.
Managed legal aspects of “Poison Pill” adoption and revision
Lead legal analysis and selection of RITUXAN and ZEVALIN trademarks
Coordinated legal and peer analysis for stock splits 2:1 21 Dec ’99 and 3:1 18 Jan ‘01
Built and managed a high-performance Legal Team of thirteen professionals
Managed Corporate Policy on Insider Trading and Stock Trading Windows
Member of Executive Committee, Corporate Secretary and liaison with Board of Directors
Strong presentation skills and recognized public speaker

Christensen, O’Connor, et al., Seattle WA 1987-1989

Hybritech, Inc., San Diego, CA 1985-1987

Intellectual Property and Licensing Counsel 1986-1987
Patent Counsel 1985-1986

George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Juris Doctorate, 1985
Leader, Save the Night Law School Campaign, 1984
President—Evening Division, Student Bar Association, 1984

University of Maryland, College Park, MD
MS candidate/Chemical Engineering, 1980-81

Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA
B.S,. Biochemistry, Cum Laude, 1980


California State Bar Association
Washington State Bar Association
District of Columbia Bar Association
United States Patent Office
Registered Patent Attorney (#30,824)
American Corporate Counsel Association
Founding Director of San Diego Chapter, 1994
American Association of Corporate Secretaries
Biotechnology Industry Organization
Founder of General Counsel Committee, 2001


Burnham Institute for Medical Research, La Jolla, CA
Trustee and Chairman of Technology Transfer Committee., 2004 to present
Basketball Club of Seattle, L.L.P.
Partner, 2002 to 2006
The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research
Friends of V Member
The Starlight Foundation for Children
Freshstart , Inc.

Exhibit C

sophia Khaldoyanidi, ph.d., m.d.,
chief scientific officer
cascade lifesciences, inc.

RL1-00656-1: Generation of human ESC lines using SCNT
Executive Summary Comments
Comment #1: The proposal lacks a detailed description of how the resultant cell lines will be assessed and characterized for pluripotency.

Response #1: This concern was raised by the Reviewer #2. However, the description of the pluripotency tests is described on page 5 of the grant application (Step 4 of our protocol). We proposed to evaluate pluripotency of SCNT-ESC lines based on stemness marker expression and both in vivo and in vitro differentiation using standard state-of-the art methods. These methods include immunocytochemistry, flow cytometry, quantitative RT-PCR, embryoid body formation and teratoma assay. All these assays are standard in stem cells biology field and are routinely used by the members of our scientific team (see list of publications provided in Part C of this grant application).

Comment #2: No data is presented suggesting that these assays [for pluripotency] are routinely available in the applicant’s laboratory.

Response #2: Due to the space constrains of the Preliminary Results and Feasibility section (2 pages), we have chosen to present the results supporting the novel and scientifically-challenging aspects of the SCNT technology. The concern regarding our ability to run the pluripotency tests was raised by the Reviewer #2 and the rationale for this concern is not clear to us: the assays for pluripotency are standard techniques used in every stem cell laboratory including laboratories leaded by the members of our scientific team. The fact that we are familiar with the standard techniques used in our field is supported by our publications (Part C of this grant application).

Comment #3: The collaborator with the primate cloning expertise proposes to spend 25% of his/her time in the applicant’s laboratory in California. However, reviewers expressed serious concern that it will be logistically difficult for the out-of-state collaborator to be available at the time when the oocytes are donated.

Response #3: Anyone with experience with IVF understands that the day of oocyte harvesting is predicted in advance based on the rigid hormone treatment schedule for each donor. Based on this well known schedule, the travel for Dr. Mitalipov from Portland to San Diego (2.5 hour duration) can be easily planned in advance.

Comment #4: Regarding the source of the oocytes, which will be obtained from an in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic, one reviewer felt that the procurement of 100 oocytes per year seems reasonably achievable. However, others felt that not enough information is presented in the application to firmly support that the applicant can obtain the high quality eggs.

Response #4: Due to the space constrains, we did not have an opportunity to explain in the body of the grant as to how human oocytes will be obtained. This information is provided very clearly in the letter of collaboration from Dr. Smotrich of La Jolla IVF Clinic (Part C). Dr. Smotrich established a list of young and healthy volunteers who desire to donate oocytes specifically for this SCNT project. All these donors were pre-tested and demonstrated a high oocyte production (20-25 oocytes per cycle) in response to hormonal stimulation. We do not intent to use oocytes that have been obtained for the purpose of IVF treatment and were not used due to poor quality.

Comment #5: If they [Cascade LifeSciences team] have access to 100 eggs, some reviewers argued that it would not be enough to make a cell line in 1 year, given the primate success rates (0.3%).

Response #5: The information on the 0.3% efficiency presented to the Study Section by the Reviewer #2 is factually incorrect. Even if the reviewer was mistakenly relying on our Nov. 2007 Nature publication, that efficiency was reported as 0.66%. More importantly, on pages 5 and 8 of this grant application we provided information that the efficiency of SCNT in primates was 3.3% (1 ESC line per 30 oocytes)

Comment #6: Reviewers mentioned that there is no consideration of how the resultant cell lines, if any, will be distributed to other research groups and under what conditions as requested in the application.

Response #6: This is factually incorrect. This concern was raised by the Reviewer #2. However, this information has been provided on page 10 of the application (last paragraph).
In summary: Our response demonstrates that the Reviewer #2 provided factually incorrect information to the Study Section. In particular, the efficiency (which is an important parameter) was erroneously reported. Moreover, despite the challenges others may legitimately face in securing oocyte donors, we were able to secure reliable and excellent source of oocytes to advance our work in humans. Finally, to suggest our proposal is not novel is a flawed conclusion as Human SCNT is a stated goal of the RFA and the stated RFA review criteria specifically noted that “novelty” was NOT a measure for funding. As a result of these factual errors and an unknown change in SCNT funding philosophy in mid-review, our project received a non-fundable score. We requested an opportunity to rebut. We were denied.
REQUESTED ACTION: We respectfully request that the ICOC reconsider our grant application for funding.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment