Friday, November 16, 2012

BioTime Will Have to Compete for California Cash for Geron's Dormant Clinical Trial

The California stem cell agency said today it does not plan to reactivate the $25 million loan to assist in Geron's spinal injury clinical trial despite an impending deal that would turn the effort over to BioTime, Inc.

Kevin McCormack, senior director for public communications for the agency, said BioTime will have to compete in an upcoming award round if it wants to win California dollars.

Responding to a question from the California Stem Cell Report, McCormack said,
“That (earlier) loan was specific to Geron and when the trial was ended the loan ended too. Of course if Biotime and Geron do complete their deal then Biotime would be free to apply to us for a new disease team grant.”
McCormack later added that BioTime could also compete in other appropriate rounds, including the strategic partnership round just posted by CIRM. It provides for four awards of up to $15 million. Funding could come as early as October of next year. The strategic partnership round is a business-friendly effort that is aimed at attracting “industry engagement and investment.” The deadline for letters of intent is Dec. 18.

The stem cell agency made its $25 million loan to Geron in 2011 just a few months before the Menlo Park firm abandoned its human embryonic stem cell trial for financial reasons. (The full text of the loan agreement can be found here.) The company has repaid the loan with interest.

The company has tried to sell the assets associated with the clinical trial since last November. The only public interest that has surfaced has come from BioTime, Inc., of Alameda, Ca. Michael West, founder of Geron, is the CEO of BioTime. Tom Okarma, CEO of Geron from 1999 to 2011, is CEO of the BioTime subsidiary that would assume the clinical trial.

News from clinical trial is expected to be published soon, according to a story in the San Francisco Business Times by Ron Leuty. He quoted CIRM President Alan Trounson as saying that “some findings” from the trial would be published next month in a medical journal.

Geron's stock traded at $1.24 at the time of this writing today, up from $1.21 yesterday. BioTime's stock stood at $2.99, up from $2.97.


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