Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Text of Lab Grant Appeal Letter

Here is the text of the grant appeal letter from the Childrens Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
December 28, 2007

Dear Members of the ICOC,

We are requesting that the ICOC reverse the decision of the Grants Working Group and recommend CHORI’s application for a Major Facilities Grant. We think it is very much in the interest of the citizens of California, and of CIRM itself, that this proposal be funded. We have proposed a facility that will expand and further develop a program focused on clinical and preclinical research into the use of stem cells to cure inherited disorders of hemoglobin (sickle cell anemia and thalassemia), which affect a disproportionate number of children in California. These disorders cause severe anemia with onset in infancy, but also widespread damage to vital organs such as brain, lung, liver and kidney. Our track record in this work is, we are confident, world-class.

Our request to the ICOC rests on the following points:

Our program has pioneered use of umbilical cord blood stem cells to cure genetic and malignant diseases in children; of particular significance is our demonstration that cord blood stem cells can be used to cure sickle cell disease.

CHORI laboratories have identified a new type of blood stem cell present in the placenta. These cells promise to provide a rich source of stem cells that will make curative therapy available to individuals who currently need it but do not have suitable stem cells available. Fulfillment of this promise will however require a program of rigorous preclinical and clinical research. The facility we have proposed is designed to house this research program. Our track record in curative stem cell therapy, and our discovery of these cells, make us the most suitable center to carry out the research.

The RFA for the Major Facilities Grant did not restrict the work to human ES cells and their derivatives. In fact, our application seems to fit precisely with the Program Objectives listed in the RFA. It is unusual only because we are proposing to carry out research that will have direct and near-term impact on clinical practice.

In framing our proposal, we had in mind the goals of Proposition 71 and of CIRM to serve the diverse population of California by encouraging ethnic diversity and participation in clinical trials focused upon the applicability of stem cell therapy. We have pioneered, and continue to develop, curative stem cell-based therapies for sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, which affect individuals from underserved minority populations in California.

Our proposal addresses another key goal of Proposition 71, which is to improve the California health care system and reduce the long-term health care cost burden on California through the development of therapies that treat disease and injuries with the ultimate goal to cure them. The cost of medical care for sickle cell disease averages over $50,000/year over a life expectancy of 30-50 years. In the course of our research, individuals with inherited blood diseases will receive transplants, and our extensive experience indicates these will be curative in the large majority of cases. The enhanced and extended lives of these individuals will represent a direct benefit; the savings to the health care system as a consequence of their cure is less direct but will benefit all California citizens. The knowledge gained from this research will enable improved treatment worldwide, with consequent saving of lives and resources.

In contrast to some approved proposals that may have only distant and uncertain prospects of actually curing disease, our proposed facility would support the development of curative therapy with a new type of stem cell, with immediate and broad application to very large numbers of individuals.

No resources to support construction of this facility are likely to be provided by the federal or state governments in the foreseeable future. We and our colleagues would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you in detail.

Bertram H. Lubin, MD
President, Director of Medical Research

Mark Walters, MD
Director, Blood and Marrow Transplant Program
Children's Hospital & Research Center, Oakland

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