Sunday, January 24, 2010

CIRM Moving to Fund Clinical Trials

Directors of the California stem cell agency meet in San Francisco Feb. 3-4 to take up a proposal to begin funding enormously expensive clinical trials in some form or another.

No details are available yet on just what is being proposed, but clinical trials can run into hundreds of millions of dollars. And there is no assurance that a viable product will result. Only one out of five drugs that enter human testing make it to market, according to one estimate.

CIRM has already approved $1 billion in grants and loans, leaving $2 billion until its funding capacity runs out.

The agenda item for the clinical trials is terse and says only,
“Consideration of concept proposal for clinical trial funding and/or concept proposal for program funding to facilitate reaching clinical trial approvals within 12 months.”
CIRM's strategic plan, approved last fall, says that the agency will develop proposals
“ support clinical trials that would be expected to include partnerships with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, private investment, and other sources of financial support that are appropriate. This is an area of developmental responsibility for the vice president of R&D(yet to be hired). CIRM expects that its contributions would be proportionally smaller than other contributions from companies and other financial institutions but would remain meaningful and would ensure reasonable patient access to the new therapeutics that are developed."
The plan continues,
“The program of clinical trials will be developed in partnership with other funding sources as a special interest of the VP R&D. The program will be focused on the delivery of research arising from the work in California on stem cells and related technologies and ensures the continuation and delivery of discoveries in basic stem cell biology into the clinic.”
Also on tap are unspecified, proposed changes in CIRM's $500 million biotech loan program, which anticipates default rates as high as 50 percent.

Normally biotech firms, with a handful of exceptions, are notable for their absence at CIRM board meetings. However, it would behoove any firms interested in either clinical trials or loans to be in attendance. They can comment on the proposals and learn more about the cash that is likely to be available. Sphere: Related Content

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