Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stem Cell 'Hotbed:' A CIRM Roadshow in Riverside

California's $3 billion stem cell agency took its message of hope for possible therapies to Riverside this week, part of its continuing outreach program that is increasingly taking on additional importance.

Why? Because the agency is scheduled to run out of cash for new awards by the end of next year. It is hoping to raise $220 million to stave off its demise until November 2020 when the plan is to ask state voters to approve an additional $5 billion in funding.

Writing on the agency's blog, Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications for the agency, was enthusiastic. His headline said, 
"A road trip to the Inland Empire highlights a hot bed of stem cell research"
McCormack wrote,
"It was a packed event, with an overflow group watching on monitors outside the auditorium. The questions asked afterwards didn’t just focus on the research being done, but on research that still needs to be done.
"One patient advocate couple asked about clinics offering stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s disease, wondering if the therapies were worth spending more than $10,000 on....
"The visit was a strong reminder that there is exciting stem cell research taking place all over California and that the Inland Empire is a key player in that research, working on projects that could one day have a huge impact in changing people’s lives, even saving people’s lives."
The stem cell agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), is not exactly a household word among most Californians. Events such as the one in Riverside help to spread the word about its activities to voters who might be considering another funding initiative for the agency. However, these type of CIRM events rarely generate news coverage that can amplify their reach. 

The Riverside event was a case in point. A UC Riverside press release earlier this month led to a four-paragraph item in the Riverside Press Enterprise announcing that the event was upcoming. But no news story has yet emerged from the actual event itself. Indeed, the only news story in the newspaper this month about the benefits of stem cell research involved the Vatican, a Riverside girl and, indirectly, a company, Caladrius Biosciences (formerly Neostem) that was awarded $11.6 million from CIRM. The agency, however, was not mentioned.

Tomorrow, another CIRM event will be held at UCLA to highlight the agency's  $50 million, Alpha Clinic program that brings resources together to focus intensely on stem cell therapies and patient treatment.
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