Friday, January 13, 2017

Latest Targets of the California Stem Cell Agency: $26 Million for Zika, Heart Disease and Much More

The California stem cell agency next Thursday expects to award nearly $26 million to 14 scientists to seek therapies for afflictions ranging from cystic fibrosis to Zika.

The awards have all been approved by the agency's out-of-state reviewers in a round called "Quest." The $3 billion agency's board is scheduled to ratify reviewers' decisions at a telephonic meeting next week. The board almost never overturns its reviewers' decisions.

The expected outcome of a Quest award is "a candidate therapeutic, medical device, diagnostic or tool that is ready for translational stage activities."

The application receiving the highest score, 95, is seeking to develop "CRISPR/Cas9 mediated FOXP3 gene editing in patient-derived hematopoietic stem cells as a cure for IPEX syndrome."

The review summary on the $1.1 million proposal said,
"Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, we will insert a wild type copy of the FOXP3 gene into patient derived HSCs, enabling pre-clinical proof of concept data for clinical trials that could reduce IPEX patient pathologies. This work will the first-in-man demonstration of the curative potential of edited HSCs and will help maintain California’s lead position in stem cell research and cure."
IPEX syndrome is a rare disease that can lead to diabetes and severe enlargement of secondary lymphoid organs.

The Zika award received the second highest score, 93. It is aimed at determining the "the impact of the Zika virus during human neurodevelopment and to test a FDA-approved therapeutic candidate to treat Zika infection." The research is budgeted for $2.1 million. 

The largest award, $2.4 million, is aimed at a gene therapy to "regenerate heart muscle for the 23 million adult and pediatric patients with heart failure, for whom there are currently no disease-modifying therapeutic approaches."  It received a score of 88.

The cystic fibrosis application was scored at 85, which was right at the cutoff line for funding. The proposal is aimed at "genome editing to correct cystic fibrosis mutations in airway  stem cells."  The application sought $2.2 million.

The reviews of 14 applications can be found here along with the reviews of unsuccessful applicants who scored from 84 to 65. None of the names of the applicants have been released yet by the agency, which withholds the information until after the board ratifies the reviewer decisions. 

Here is a link to the agenda for the meeting, which includes remote locations throughout the state at which the public can participate in the meeting and speak to the board. The meeting is also expected to be available through an audiocast. 

Remote locations include Oakland, San Diego, Napa, Irvine, Los Gatos, Elk Grove and San Francisco. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda.  
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