Wednesday, October 22, 2008

UK, CIRM Ink Collaboration Agreement

The California stem cell agency has expanded its international connections once again, this time linking to the United Kingdom with an agreement that potentially will finance scientists working in California with scientists working half-a-world away.

No money, however, has yet been committed. Reporter Bernadette Tansey of the San Francisco Chronicle also reported that the touchy issue of ownership of IP has not yet been worked out.

The agreement was announced earlier this week. It follows similar agreements in June with Australia and Canada.

According to Maggie Shiels of BBC radio, CIRM Chairman Robert Klein said,
"...(O)ne of the diseases the CIRM was likely to focus on in the future would be stem cell therapy for a type of macular degeneration that leads to a blindness that affects 7% of the US population over 75.

"Mr. Klein said the UK was well ahead in animal trials in this field and that the deal could pave the way for earlier than hoped for human trials."

"'We are very hopeful that this collaboration can bring us together in human trials to prove the first global embryonic stem cell therapy. It will hopefully break open this entire field,' he said."
According to Monya Baker, writing on The Niche (the Nature magazine stem cell blog), Lord Paul Drayson, the UK minister of science, said,
"UK’s National Health System made his country particularly able to carry out clinical trials and gather clinical data."
Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, was quoted as saying,
"We could do a one-off with an investigator in Paris, but that bogs us down."
Baker said the agreement permits CIRM to accept applications "under the same rules and avoid bureaucracy."

If Klein's optimism is borne out, the "break-through" on the first embryonic stem cell therapy could mean that Great Britain will be the first to see the clinical fruits of research funded at least in part by California taxpayers.

The UK/CIRM announcement received light news coverage. For example, Bernadette Tansey's story was tucked away on page D2 of the Chronicle.

A meeting is scheduled for January 2009 among scientists and others to determine the "most fruitful options" for collaboration. Sphere: Related Content

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