Friday, October 16, 2009

Square 1 Wins CIRM Biotech Loan Pilot Project

The California stem cell agency has signed a $250,000 contract with Square 1 bank to perform a financial review of the firms seeking the first-ever CIRM loans in a program that could reach $500 million or so.

In response to a query, Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, said today that the fee-for-service arrangement covered only this year's $210 million disease team round, which is budgeted for 12 awards.

Next Friday, the CIRM directors' Finance Subcommittee is scheduled to consider financial review procedures.

Originally CIRM had hoped to have more than one firm available to perform reviews because of the possibility of conflicts of interest. But last month, the agency decided to go with one firm on a pilot project basis.

At a meeting Sept. 15, CIRM Chairman Robert Klein told directors,
“By having a pilot contract, we can learn a great deal, the lender can learn, and we can be in a position in December or early next year of bringing back something that has gone back to the (directors) Finance Committee again and has more experience in it on the implementation side rather than getting ourselves into a large master contract without that case study value on a very limited and controlled basis.”
Klein said the number of possible loans in the disease team round is “very small.”

John Robson
, vice president for CIRM operations, said the next possible round of loans(early translation RFA) would not come up until the middle of next year. He said that would allow the staff to develop a more robust proposal that would engage more than one underwriter.

Chris Woolley
(see photo), president of the life sciences division of Square 1 in San Diego, offered the original bid on behalf of his firm. Woolley is a past president of the San Diego Venture Group and formerly served on the board of Biocom, an industry group in that area.

Here is a link to Woolley's original proposal earlier this year.

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