Tuesday, July 09, 2013

HIV Clinical Trial Hailed by California Stem Cell Agency

The California stem cell agency today scored what it called an “important milestone” with the announcement of the start of a clinical trial involving a therapy to help protect persons infected with HIV from the effects of the virus.

The trial is partially funded from a $20 million award from the stem cell agency, which is known as CIRM, to researchers at UCLA and Calimmune, a Tucson, Az., company. Calimmune's share of the award was $8.2 million.

Alan Trounson, president of the $3 billion state agency, said in a statement,
CIRM funding of this Phase l/ll trial is an important milestone for us. One of our goals is to support research that moves the most promising science out of the lab and into clinical trials in people. To be able to do that with a disease as devastating as HIV/AIDS highlights the importance of our funding and the potential impact it could have on the health of people around the world.”

The trial was announced by Calimmune this morning. The company said,

The first patient has begun treatment in a Phase I/II clinical trial designed to determine whether a pioneering genetic medicine approach can help to protect individuals infected with HIV from the effects of the virus. The study, “Safety Study of a Dual Anti-HIV Gene Transfer Construct to Treat HIV-1 Infection,” utilizes a gene medicine called Cal-1, developed in the lab of Nobel Laureate Dr. David Baltimore and by Calimmune.”

Baltimore served on the CIRM board from 2004 until June 6, 2007. He resigned from the board about 18 months before the application process began for the grant round that ultimately funded Calimmune, a company he helped to found. He is currently chairman of the Calimmune board. 

Asked for comment, Jeff Sheehy, a member of the CIRM governing board and communications director for AIDS research at UC San Francisco, said,
"This trial will hopefully offer several important insights into the safety and feasibility of genetically modifying blood forming stem cells in an HIV patient as a potential therapy.  We are very early in this research, and with this Phase I trial's goal of establishing safety and the risks involved, I applaud the courage and altruism demonstrated by the patients who are willing to participate in this study."

The Calimmune press release said the principal investigators on the clinical trial are Ron Mitsayasu of UCLA and Jacob P. Lalezari of Quest Clinical Research of San Francisco. Quest is currently soliciting patients for the clinical trial as well as UCLA. (Persons interested in participating in the trial can find email contacts at this website. Twelve are needed.)

The principal investigators on the CIRM award are Irvin Chen of UCLA and Geoff Symonds of Calimmune.  

Here are links to the CIRM press release on the subject and the agency's blog item.

(An earlier version of this story did not include the fact that Calimmune's share of the CIRM award was $8.2 million or the links to the agency press release and blog.)
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