Tuesday, February 10, 2009

San Diego Consortium Pushing Ahead on $115 Million Lab

San Diego's Sanford Stem Cell Consortium, an alliance of UC San Diego, Scripps, Burnham and Salk, says that it remains committed to its $115 million lab construction project and that site preparation is currently underway.

Louis Coffman, vice president of the consortium, made the comment Monday in response to a report in the UC San Diego campus newspaper that the project, funded in part with $43 million from CIRM, had been put on an indefinite hold because of financial reasons. CIRM last month disclosed that it is facing a severe cash flow problem because of its inability to sell state bonds.

Coffman said that site preparation has begun but that actual construction will not start until the consortium concludes "the definitive ground lease" with UC San Diego, a process expected to take three to four weeks. Coffman said,
"And it will take a similar amount of time to nail down definitive financing terms and then likely several weeks after that to consummate financing."
Coffman also told the California Stem Cell Report, "SCRM (the consortium) has not expressed doubt that it will receive the grant funds from CIRM. We are confident that CIRM will pay SCRM the grant funds due to SCRM when due.

"California¹s financial challenges have raised potential lender¹s concerns about CIRM¹s ability to pay the grant funds, but CIRM has the means and is working on a document meant to assuage those concerns.

"True, the tax exempt bond market turmoil has impeded our efforts to raise debt funds. But it is an impediment that we will overcome. The tax exempt bond market is showing signs of stabilizing and we continue to work with several groups who have expressed keen interest to help us raise the necessary funds.

"We are fully committed to this project to realize the promise of the Consortium, to harness the power of stem cells to develop the means to diagnose, treat and one day we hope to cure degenerative and other diseases and injuries."

The consortium has close links to the stem cell agency. Two members of the consortium's board of directors, John Reed of Burnham and Marsha Chandler of Salk, also sit on the CIRM board of directors. Scripps and UC San Diego also have representatives on the CIRM board, Floyd Bloom and David Brenner, respectively.

The CIRM grant to the consortium is conditioned on the organization's ability to raise matching funds and meet a completion deadline of December 2010. Sphere: Related Content

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