Wednesday, January 28, 2015

California Stem Cell Appeal: $1.8 Million Needed for Removing Bone Replacement Bottleneck

A UC Davis researcher is making a strong pitch to the California stem cell agency to finance a $1.8 million effort to “resolve bottlenecks in engineering replacement bone and cartilage.”

J. Kent Leach, UC Davis photo

J. Kent Leach, an associate professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and orthopedic surgery, said his proposal addresses “a major hurdle in regenerative medicine of the musculoskeletal system (that) impairs the inherent personalized medicine component of stem cell-based methods.”

In a letter to the agency’s board for its meeting tomorrow, Leach said the research team involved is “arguably the most qualified team in the nation to conduct these studies.” 

Other scientists participating are Laura Marcu and Kyriacos Athanasiou.

Kyriacos Athanasiou
UC Davis photo
Reviewers for the $3 billion agency, who make the de facto decisions on awards, scored the application at 72 and did not approve it for funding. The agency’s staff also nixed the proposal, declaring,
“There is another application recommended for funding in Tier 1 that proposes to optimize and apply the same imaging technology platform to a different test system. In addition, the scientific leadership of the two applications is the same.”
Leach said,
“The co-PI (Dr. Marcu) of this proposal is also PI (principal investigator) on RT3-07879, which is focused on assessing stem cell repopulation and remodeling of engineered vascular tissue constructs. 
Laura Marcu, UC Davis photo
"However, the use of this technology for monitoring the maturation of engineered bone and cartilage, tissues composed of dense matrix reflective of the differentiation of contributing stem cell populations, is substantially different from cardiovascular applications. Of course, both applications involve instrumentation based on optical spectroscopy and ultrasound principles, but the implementation and subsequent commercial hurdles for this technology is very different.”
 (For the summary of reviewer and staff comments, see application RT3-07981 in this document.)

Leach noted that another competing application in the round received an identical 72 score and was approved by the agency’s staff.

The grant round was budgeted for as much as $35 million. Reviewers and CIRM staff recommended approval of awards totaling $29.2 million.

Scientists making appeals directly to the board have not been successful in the last 12 months or so. The board has been more reticent about overturning reviewer and staff recommendations since it changed review and appeal procedures in 2013.
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