Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sweeping Cancer Fight Launched by CIRM and Canada

SAN DIEGO -- Backed by $100 million in Canadian cash, the Canadian government and the California stem cell agency today announced a three-year effort to probe the role of cancer stem cells in developing the disease.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement:
"Entering into collaborations such as this, which bring together leading medical research capabilities, have great potential in improving the lives of not only Californians, but people around the world."
Canadian Minister of Health Tony Clement said his government will contribute more than $100 million to the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, which will work with CIRM on the effort.

A statement from CIRM said,
"The first potential area for collaboration under consideration is the upcoming CIRM Disease Team grants. These grants will provide an opportunity for researchers in California and Canada to collaborate, broadening the potential pool of expertise that can be applied toward research in a specific area."
CIRM's board of directors next week is scheduled to approve $1 million in planning grants for the disease program, which will run about $122 million. Those grants are expected to be awarded this time next year.

CIRM President Alan Trounson said,
"One of CIRM’s primary goals is to accelerate the field of stem cell research as a whole. In some instances we can do this more effectively through collaborations that involve the best scientific endeavors, regardless of geography. Through this relationship, CIRM money will continue to be earmarked only for research that takes place within California, but our funding can be significantly leveraged to accelerate the clinical benefits for patients. Coordinating our joint efforts in cancer stem cell research through collaborative programs with our colleagues in Canada will enhance the opportunities to contain and to prevent recurrence of certain cancers."
The Canadian/California announcement said the the Canadian partners in stem cell consortium are the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Stem Cell Network, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Genome Canada. The news release said they "are expected to make an initial investment of more than $100 million Canadian dollars in the collaboration, with Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Government through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, having already confirmed commitments of up to $30 million each for cancer stem cell research. CIRM will support the collaboration through its existing programs."

CIRM also announced another collaborative agreement between the Australian state of Victoria, also utilizing the disease team grant program. The announcement said CIRM and Victoria are "laying the foundation for an arrangement under which they will jointly seek grant applications, evaluate them, and make recommendations for funding research activities." (Trounson is from Australia, moving to California to take the presidency of CIRM in January.)

The announcement did not indicate any funding beyond the $122 million from CIRM.

Both announcements were made at the BIO conference here, which has attracted an estimated 20,000 persons from throughout the world.

Schwarzenegger made a luncheon speech at the conference. Video clips are expected to be mounted on his web site later today. His office also prepared a California biotech fact sheet that highlight CIRM's $1.1 billion lab construction effort and its $530 million in research grants.

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