Friday, March 10, 2017

California's Alpha Clinics: A Unique, Stem Cell 'Clincher' for Patients, Doctors and Researchers

California's $3 billion stem cell agency this week explored the status of its ambitious Alpha Clinic network, touting its impact and progress over the last two years involving hundreds of patients.

The network, which now has bases only in Southern California, is slated to add two more this year in what will be a $40 million investment by the state of California. It is likely to be a major part of the legacy of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine or CIRM, as the Oakland-based stem cell agency is formally known. The agency runs out of cash for new awards in 2020.

Geoff Lomax, senior officer for CIRM's strategic initiatives, yesterday wrote about the Alpha network in an item on the agency's blog, The Stem Cellar.

He noted the state’s position as a world leader in stem cell research, helped mightily by the efforts of the 12-year-old agency. He wrote,

“But the real clincher is that California has something that no one else has: a network of medical centers dedicated to stem cell-based clinical trials for patients.”

Lomax, who was one of the first employees at the agency in 2005, said,

“So far, hundreds of patients have been treated at our Alpha Clinics. These top-notch medical centers use CIRM-funding to build teams specialized in overseeing stem cell trials. These teams include patient navigators who provided in-depth information about clinical trials to prospective patients and support them during their treatment. They also include pharmacists who work with patients’ cells or manufactured stem cell-products before the therapies are given to patients. And lastly, let’s not forget the doctors and nurses that are specially trained in the delivery of stem cell therapies to patients.

“The Alpha Clinics Network also offers resources and tools for clinical trial sponsors, the people responsible for conducting the trials. These include patient education and recruitment tools and access to over 20 million patients in California to support successful recruitment. And because the different clinical trial sites are in the same network, sponsors can benefit from sharing the same approval measures for a single trial at multiple sites….

“This collective expertise has resulted in a 3-fold (from 12 to 36 – two trials are being conducted at two sites) increase in the number of stem cell clinical trials at the Alpha Clinic sites since the Network’s inception.”

The agency is seeking applications to open two more Alpha Clinics this year, funding them with $8 million each. One of the criteria is geographic diversity. The application deadline is May 15.

In just 13 days, folks interested in Alpha Clinics can take part in a one-day symposium at the City of Hope in the Los Angeles area, which is one of the current Alpha sites. Advance registration is requested for the free event.

The other Alpha sites are at UC San Diego and UCLA/UC Irvine.
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