Thursday, February 18, 2016

Leukemia Treatment: California Stem Cell Agency Awards $3.8 Million to San Diego's Angiocrine Bioscience

CIRM graphic
The California stem cell agency today approved a $3.8 million award to a San Diego firm to help develop a better way to treat such afflictions as leukemia with cord  blood transplants despite concerns that the effort was too complex.

Shahin Rafii, Cornell photo
The funds will go to Angiocrine Bioscience, Inc., whose key technology is licensed from Weill Cornell Medical College and was invented and developed by Shahin Rafii, a professor of medicine at the New York school. He remains on the company's scientific advisory board.

Directors voted 13-0 to approve the award, but not before two directors raised questions. Joe Panetta, president of the San Diego-based industry group, Biocom, wondered about difficulties with the manufacturing process raised by the agency’s blue-ribbon reviewers, who earlier approved the application behind closed doors.

Steve Juelsgaard, former executive vice president of Genentech, also raised questions. If the effort flounders, he said, 

“We need to be able to put the brakes on.”

CIRM officials said that the research would be closely monitored with clear milestones that needed to be achieved before cash continued to flow to the company.

“plans to develop a product called AB-110, which blends an expanded mix of stem cells from cord blood with genetically modified endothelial cells, the kind of cell that forms the lining of blood vessels, to improve the success rate of cord blood transplantation.

“The hope is that AB-110 will reduce the complications that can occur with a cord blood transplant – such as viral infections or pneumonia – and increase the likelihood the transplanted cells will successfully engraft, meaning they start growing and creating new, healthy, blood cells.”

No members of the public spoke at the teleconference meeting which had 12 public locations around the state. The next meeting of the agency’s directors will be March 16 near San Francisco International Airport and will be a face-to-face session with likely a handful of remote public locations.
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