Tuesday, July 17, 2018

California Parkinson's Group Strikes Out on Path to Stem Cell Therapy; Clinical Trial, For-profit Company Goals

A San Diego patient advocate group for Parkinson's Disease is making a major financial move as it heads toward creation of a for-profit company to develop a stem cell therapy for an affliction that affects about one million people in the United States.

The group is the Summit for Stem Cell Foundation, which has been deeply involved in seeking funds from the $3 billion California stem cell agency. The Summit organization supports research being conducted by Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicinat the Scripps Research Institute.

Summit says it has raised $5 million as of this spring from a variety of sources. It estimates it will need $8 to $10 million to reach the stage where the federal government approves the beginning of a clinical trial. It also expects to raise more cash by avoiding the high administrative charges involving many research organizations.

Reporter Bradley Fikes of the San Diego Union Tribune wrote yesterday about the latest developments. He said Summit is moving out of its space at Scripps as it prepares to apply for funds for clinical research. Fikes wrote,
"The group has leased about 5,000 square feet, doubling its space, and as a parting gift Scripps Research is donating equipment from its stem cell center, saving the foundation nearly $1 million in start-up costs. At the same time, its overhead is dramatically reduced, said Jeanne Loring, the group’s lead scientist and professor at Scripps Research. (Loring is serving as the unpaid director of research for Summit.)
"A $2.4 million grant the group received from California’s stem cell agency ran out earlier this year, Loring said. Now the group can step up fundraising and add staff. It’s also soliciting more donated equipment."
Fikes continued,
"The group also plans to establish a for-profit company to get funding from investors interested in generating returns, Loring said. By drawing investments as well as philanthropy, the project gains access to capital not otherwise available.
"The group was inspired by the example of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Loring said. In 2000, the foundation gave San Diego’s Aurora Biosciences $40 million to develop a cystic fibrosis drug."
Fikes reported that separation from Scripps has financial advantages dealing with what called "indirect costs." 
"Raising (donations) has been difficult, in large part because of the overhead issue, Loring said.
"Scripps Research imposes overhead of up to 94 percent, meaning that every dollar donated to the group required an additional 94 cents for the institute, Loring said. At the new location close by on Torrey Pines Mesa, overhead is roughly 10 percent.
"Lower overhead means the group can now apply for philanthropic grants that previously weren’t practical, she said, because donors prefer as much as their money as possible go directly to the cause."
Here is a video of Loring describing her work. 

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