Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blogger Talks to Novocell About First CIRM Loan

Little information was dispensed yesterday by the California stem cell agency about the first step in what is proposed to be a $500 million loan program for the biotech industry.

But a biopharmaceutical industry blogger provided some information about the $20 million loan to Novocell, Inc., a San Diego stem cell engineering company with an emphasis on diabetes therapies. It is the first beneficiary of the loan program.

CIRM directors approved the loan to help develop a novel cellular therapy for diabetes. The disease team effort includes a $2.8 million Novocell contract with Jeff Bluestone of UC San Francisco.

Alex Lash of the In Vivo blog talked to Novocell CEO John West. Kash wrote,
“West...says the cash infusion from 'the stem-cell experts' was a validation of the firm's work and puts it in a 'good position' to look for its next round of venture funding.

“There are some minor details to work out first, though. West says Novocell hasn't yet received a loan document from CIRM and isn't exactly sure about the terms. Based on the loan program's guidelines, West is aiming for 10% warrant coverage and a payback period closer to 10 years, the far end of the range. 'We have a good feeling we'll work it out,' said West.

“CIRM loans will certainly have more generous terms than typical bank loans, and the agency has said it doesn't expect many of them to be paid back. West said he was surprised that Novocell was the only for-profit to lead a disease team application. But he noted that not many of the state's stem-cell related firms were far enough along to push a program into the clinic within four years, one of the top criteria of the agency's reviewers.”

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item misspelled Alex Lash's last name as Kash.)


  1. Thanks for the generous mention, David. Just FYI, I'm a veteran reporter and editor (or if you like, newsman) who blogs sometimes, no disrespect intended to anyone who calls him or herself a blogger.

  2. Thanks for your response. No disrespect intended on my part either. I do suspect that the distinctions between reporters, editors and bloggers are not something most readers have at their higher levels of consciousness.