Friday, December 09, 2011

San Jose Mercury News: California Stem Cell Agency Eyeing More Bonds but Has No Treatments

In an overview of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, the San Jose Mercury News says that CIRM "still has no treatments on the market and is at a critical juncture that could determine how much longer it stays in operation. "

The story is the second significant piece about CIRM this week in a major California newspaper, which has not received much coverage in the mainstream media in the state in the last year or so. The Los Angeles Times earlier this week carried a column that raised questions about the "Geron fiasco" involving CIRM and the conduct of the agency's business.

The San Jose article yesterday by Steve Johnson said that voters "may not be as enthusiastic" about providing several billion dollars more to finance the agency as they were when they created it seven years ago.

The newspaper, located in the heart of California's Silicon Valley, quoted John Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., as saying,
"I think it's crazy. The state's economy is in a far different position now. We're not even able to provide adequate funding for education."
Johnson also reported that former CIRM Chairman Robert Klein, who led the 2004 Prop. 71 campaign, is raising or intends to raise funds for another bond issue, perhaps in 2014. The agency will run out of cash in about 2017, according to its projections.

The article noted that CIRM has awarded only $83.4 million to 15 businesses, which are the key to pushing research into the clinic,  out of the $1.3 billion it has handed out. Johnson wrote,
"Many businesses have been deterred from even trying to make stem-cell treatments because of how long it might take.

"'It's a challenge,' said Rodney Young, chief financial officer at Newark-based StemCells, which hopes early next year to obtain a $20 million institute grant to determine if a type of adult stem cell can slow the loss of cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients. 'It's an expensive, uncertain and long process.'"
Johnson additionally noted that CIRM has received criticism for the high salaries it pays its top executives and for conflicts of interests.

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