Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Text of Snyder Comment on his CIRM Grant

Here is the text of Evan Snyder's response to a request for comments involving his CIRM grant.

“Actually, contrary to Mr. Simpson's assertions, this project uses the funds of California's taxpayer's -- particularly those who suffer from Parkinson's Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases -- in the most economical and frugal manner possible. The only authentic model of Parkinson's Disease that is predictive of how patients will respond to therapy -- both in terms of benefits and side-effects -- is the non-human primate model. The best non-human primate facility for Parkinson's Disease research in the world is the Axion/St. Kitts Biomedical Research Center. This facility, which has been studying Parkinson's Disease for ~30 years, was, in fact, chosen as the Michael J. Fox primate facility for precisely this reason. Not only is this facility the best in the world, but also the most inexpensive. No primate facility in California was able to match its cost, match its expertise and scientific rigor, or match its facilities. UC-Davis, the only competitive primate facility in California, is not capable of maintaining this model of Parkinson’s Disease, particularly the enormous amount of care of vigilance required. Indeed, UC-Davis does not even house the African Green Monkey which is required; rhesus monkeys are known not to offer the same predictive value. (As might be recalled, the first clinical trials using fetal tissue in PD failed to an extent because representative preclinical animal models were not used, a problem eliminated in this proposal.) It would take a number of years for UC-Davis to bring their facility up to the level of excellence required by these studies (which could lead directly to clinical trials). Furthermore, they would need to charge 300% the cost being devoted to the animal studies now; in other words, for the same amount of work, this project would need a budget nearly 3 times its present budget with a delay in its work by years. The African Green monkey furthermore requires a near tropical climate with indigenous tropical fruit and housing in an open free-ranging, colony setting. That climate or housing demands cannot be created in California.
“There is a long experience in California – including via CIRM – for obtaining animal models from the facility that produces the models the best. For example, mutant mice and other specialized murine models are obtained from Jackson labs -- even though it is in Maine -- because that facility produces the animals required. (I should mention that Axion/St. Kitts Biomedical did have a California office in its early days and will be renewing that). The only CIRM-funded work being done out of California on this project are those tasks that require a living animal -- i.e., transplantation, behavioral assessment, and possibly imaging. Once a living behaving animal is not required, all study materials are transported back to California for the real scientific analysis. This is done only by California scientists and staff. Dr. Redmond, the only key personnel member on the team not presently a permanent California resident, manages the facility and performs the surgeries and, hence, must be on site; nevertheless he is in the process of becoming a formal Sanford-Burnham adjunct professor (he has served in that role informally for a number of years). Furthermore, for one week each quarter, Dr. Redmond will live in California working with the team to further analyze the data -- the real purpose of the proposal.

“Hence, Mr. Simpson is egregiously mistaken about the nature of the grant and, most importantly, about the nature and requirements of Parkinson's Disease research that has any chance of aiding California patients. Furthermore, he is misinformed about the most parsimonious way of stretching California biomedical research dollars during hard financial times. CIRM and the ICOC, in fact, exerted exceptional fiduciary (not to mention scientific) responsibility in awarding this grant. They awarded the contract to the lowest bidder. And California is not only getting the fruits of arguably the best Parkinson's Disease research team in the world using the best Parkinson's Disease model that exists, with the shortest trajectory to treatments, but is getting it at the lowest price available in the world. Given these facts, one is lead to question Mr. Simpson’s true concern for the disease sufferers in the state as well as his concern for the most parsimonious use of taxpayer money.”

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