Monday, June 15, 2015

California Hits Its Mark on Faster Delivery of Cash for Stem Cell Research

  • Caladrius to get first installment on nearly $18 million 
  • Agency President Randy Mills Pleased with CIRM 2.0 Overhaul

 SAN FRANCISCO -- The California stem cell agency may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but it is running way more quickly than it was a year ago.

For researchers and patients, that means the agency’s millions are moving more rapidly into development of therapies and cures with the goal of beginning to save lives sooner rather than later.

The signal event came last week when the agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM), signed off on a contract with Caladrius Biosciences, Inc., of New York.

As soon as Caladrius signs the agreement, it will receive a check for $3 million, the first installment on a nearly $18 million award that was approved by directors less than a month ago. 

Randy Mills
CIRM President Randy Mills was delighted last Friday when he told the California Stem Cell Report about the action on the Caladrius award. (Caladrius was formerly known as NeoStem.)

Mills, who has been head of the agency for only a little over a year, mentioned the news during a 45-minute conversation in his office at CIRM headquarters.

It was the first award paid out under Mills’ new, CIRM 2.0 program, an effort designed to speed cash to researchers and improve the quality of applications. It is also the first CIRM award in a stage three trial, the last step in the process of winning government approval for widespread public use of a therapy.

The agency approved the actual Caladrius contract last Thursday, 21 days after the directors’ approval. Mills’ goal was to act on the contract within 45 days.

CIRM’s 2.0 clock shows Caladrius’ application for the melanoma therapy coming in at the end of February, 113 days ago. Mills’ goal is to have action completed on an application within 120 days from the time it officially enters the 2.0 system -- instead of up to two years as in the past. 

The firm offered its initial application at the end of January, but it was sent back for improvement. 

Next up in the first round of CIRM 2.0 awards is final action on a $5 million award to Shaomei Wang of Cedars-Sinai that was also approved on May 21 by CIRM directors.

Mills said last Friday that CIRM 2.0 has not been perfect and that in some cases implementation required "brute force." But he is pleased overall. Later this year, Mills and his team plan to apply CIRM 2.0 to basic and translational awards, all of which will mean significant changes for hundreds of California scientists. 

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