Tuesday, July 15, 2014

California Stem Cell Agency to Alter $70 Million Alpha Clinic Proposal

The California stem cell agency is moving to revise a significant component of its $70 million plan to create one-stop Alpha clinics aimed at establishing the Golden State as the leading location worldwide for stem cell therapies.

Details of the changes that will be considered at the July 24 meeting of the agency’s board are not yet available. However, they deal with creation of a $15 million data and information management center that would be involved in clinical trial support, outreach and education and “development of healthcare economic resources.” The last area would involve efforts to convince insurance companies and the government to pay for what are likely to be very expensive treatments. 

The Alpha clinic applications were scheduled to be reviewed last month behind closed doors by the agency’s out-of-state reviewers. However, the June review was postponed shortly after Randy Mills became the new president of the agency. The agency said it was having difficulty getting qualified reviewers.  The review is now set for mid-September.

The Alpha clinic proposal has been championed for several years by the agency’s former president, Alan Trounson, who is now involved in a conflict-of-interest flap. Last week, he was appointed to the board of StemCells, Inc., of Newark, Ca., which is the recipient of a $19.4 million award from CIRM. The agency has launched a review of all activities involving the publicly traded firm and banned CIRM employees from speaking to Trounson about StemCells, Inc., matters.  

Mills began his presidential duties May 15 at which time Trounson was designated as a senior scientific advisor. Early in May, Kevin McCormack, CIRM spokesman, said that Trounson would remain with the agency until June 30. McCormack said that Trounson would  “help shepherd through a number of projects and commitments he has made,” which some assumed included the review of the Alpha applications in June.

McCormack did not response to a question on June 6 about whether Trounson would be participating in the review.

Eight, unidentified major institutions are competing for the Alpha clinic awards. Five are specifically shooting for the information management center.  StemCells, Inc., is not expected to be involved because of the terms of the RFA, but Stanford University is quite likely to be among the applicants.

Stanford scientist Irv Weissman, founder of StemCells, Inc., and currently a member of its board and chairman of its scientific advisory board, is head of the Palo Alto school’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

The CIRM board meeting will be held in Millbrae but two teleconference locations, where the public can participate, will be available in Los Angeles  and one in La Jolla. Specific locations can be found on the agenda.
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  1. Anonymous10:56 AM

    New president to nix current proposals for Coordinating and Information Management Center component of CIRM Alpha Stem Cell clinic concept.


    9. Reconsideration of approval of concept proposal for Alpha Clinic re: CIRM Coordinating and Information Management Center Award.

    • Memo from the President - CIMC Portion of the Alpha Clinics Concept Plan (PDF)

    “I am asking the Board to consider rescinding the CIMC portion of the Concept Plan”

    Some people that spent a lot effort for nothing, but I can’t say that I disagree with the new assessment.


    “I am not advocating any modification to the Alpha Stem Cell Clinic Sites portion of the Concept Plan…I do, however, recommend a staged approach to funding, where we evaluate… a limited number of sites before expanding.”

    Sounds difficult to implement. Should be an interesting ICOC meeting.

  2. Thanks for the note. It came in about the time I was posting this item on Mills' plan to cut the $15 million data center, which is nearly certain to approved by the board. http://californiastemcellreport.blogspot.com/2014/07/californias-far-reaching-alpha-stem.html