Monday, December 08, 2014

'Radical' Improvements Coming at California Stem Cell Agency

The new president of the $3 billion California stem cell agency is not interested in “staying the course” on development of stem cell therapies in the Golden State.

Randy Mills has bigger goals in mind. He told ipscell.com that the opportunities in California go well beyond what has already been done at California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known.  Mills said,
“If you believe in the potential of regenerative medicine and cell therapy as I do, there is no place in the world you could go to have a bigger impact. No company, no other state, not even a country can have the impact California can have in bringing these treatments to patients.
“My interest at CIRM isn’t to ‘stay the course’ – it is to be as innovative as possible to make the agency radically more effective and efficient.”
For a look at some of what's coming, see the $50 million, California stem cell speed-up item here.

Mills’ remarks were reported last Friday in an email interview on the blog produced by Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell scientist at UC Davis.

Mills had high praise for the CIRM staff, discussed CIRM’s financial position, identified his top priority for stem cell therapy treatments and named his favorite stem cells.

Mills, who made his career in business prior to joining CIRM last May, described the CIRM team as “remarkable.” He said,
“It is such a gift for a new leader to be able to come into an organization and have such talent to work with.”
Mills also discussed his revision of previous CIRM predictions that its funding for new grants would run out in 2017. He said,
“It’s funny, I was able to extend the funding life of CIRM until at least 2020 by using a little trick I once learned called “math.” Not to put to fine of a point on it, but I basically looked at how much money we actually had left to spend (approximately $1 billion) and divided it by how much money we actually awarded each year – about $190 million. And there you have it, 2020.”
Mills also questioned assumptions that all concepts approved by the board would be funded at the amount initially proposed.

Knoepfler asked about the challenges facing the regenerative medicine field. Mills replied,
“The single most important thing for us to do in cell therapy is to generate clear and convincing evidence of efficacy in humans. All of the other major issues surrounding regenerative medicine, such as high product cost and scalability can and will be solved once there is obvious and compelling proof of concept data for a product. Looking ahead, I am really excited about some of the things coming down the CIRM pipeline that have the potential to reach this high standard.”
Knoepfler also asked,
“Do you have a favorite kind of stem cell and why?”
Mills replied,
“It’s a toss up between mesenchymal mint chip and pluripotent pasticcio – they are both delicious! 
“In reality, no. I am agnostic as to stem cell type. My favorites are the ones that help patients.”
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