Thursday, October 07, 2010

Full BayBio Report on Lack of CIRM Grants to Business

The California Stem Cell Report has offered the state's stem cell agency and its directors an opportunity to respond at length in connection with the biotech industry's concerns about the paucity of awards to business.

BayBio, which represents the industry in Northern California, documented the complaints in a six-page paper in August, just two months after CIRM Chairman Robert Klein dismissed a call by a non-industry source for action on the matter. The entire BayBio document can be found here. It was used to prepare industry executives for a closed-door meeting with Klein and other CIRM officials in August.

We have emailed directors and CIRM, asking them if they would like to respond. We promised that any comments would be carried verbatim, which is almost never done in the mainstream media.

We have also sent links to the items to the blue-ribbon panel of reviewers who will be conducting a sweeping review of CIRM next week. However, the public and industry have been barred from attending the closed-door sessions, with the exception of one-hour to make comments or ask questions. The public and industry will not be permitted to hear testimony from CIRM staff or other witnesses.


  1. Don Gibbons, CIRM4:06 PM

    Your post distorts the facts. The document you quote from BayBio is not a “report” it was a letter written to highlight issues and get the group’s membership excited about attending the session. It was not intended to be a document of record regarding the organization’s stance on CIRM.

    You did not check the facts in the letter. You could quickly tally the for-profit grants on our web site and see that the $45 million awarded to industry is 4.5 percent of the amount awarded not the 3 percent cited. But you know that even this number is not a good comparative number. Anyone who follows CIRM knows we are working from a “pipeline” strategy moving from basic research to clinical application and industry was not, and should not have been, eligible for the early rounds of grants. I do not believe the taxpayers wanted us building facilities for for-profit entities. Also companies would not have been appropriate recipients for our training grants. So, if you look at only research dollars, the pie shrinks to $628 million and industry’s share is 7 percent.

    However, that is still not an appropriate number to use. The first two research awards, the SEED and Comprehensive grants, were called the Jumpstart program designed to get this new field launched. They were issued before we had an intellectual property(IP) policy in place and therefore could not be offered to industry. (And don’t suggest we should have had an IP policy in place by then given the vast number of new systems the agency was developing simultaneously.) If you subtract those dollars the pie shrinks to $511 million and industry’s share rises to almost 9 percent.

    Given our pipeline strategy and our stated intent to start out more focused on basic science and move into the translational and clinical arenas when the science matured, this is a respectable percentage. As you well know we have a $50 million Target Clinical Development Request For Applications active now and that could double industry’s share in one grant round.

    If you look at the industry partnerships our academic grantees have formed, the dollar amount committed to industry is already probably double actual grant total. While only one disease team Principal Investigator was from industry, a second team had a co-PI from industry and another eight have major contracted relationships with industry.

    CIRM’s management team is certainly not biased against industry. Seven of 12 science officers came to us from industry, and there is frequent discussion in the office about ways to bring industry more firmly on board with our mission and to clear misconceptions on our policy. This is the reason we developed a webinar on grant writing that is now on our website

    Also, a little fact checking would have revealed that the number of industry reviewers on our grants working group was wrong in the BayBio letter. Thirteen members are currently employed by industry and another 13 have strong ties to industry as former industry employees or having been involved in founding a company. So, that is 26 out of 136.

    Your posting did not represent the over all tone of the BayBio meeting. It was generally a very constructive session. One executive present noted that when our regulations were explained, his company was comfortable enough to apply.

    Distortions relying heavily on a single disgruntled source do not do a service for the stem cell field or help the reputation of the blogosphere.

  2. When BayBio convened the meeting with CIRM in September, our intention was to have a thoughtful conversation with the organization’s leaders. Just as we had hoped, our meeting was cordial, enlightening in many respects and created an open atmosphere for candid dialogue. The tone of the meeting was productive for both sides and both CIRM and BayBio left the meeting with a renewed sense of collaboration and areas to address. As stem cell research matures, so will the funding opportunities made available through CIRM and other agencies. We are lucky to have such an entity in California when other regressive policies on stem cells are waging on the national stage. At BayBio, we will continue to assist our members in the process for the next life saving or life extending therapies and we look forward to a strong relationship with those entities that help further this cause by funding critical research and development.