Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Nature on Disease Team Round: The Race is On

Nature magazine has published another piece on the California stem cell agency's ambitious, $230 million disease team round, calling it the “starting gun” to confirm the promise of stem cells.

The Nov. 2, 2009, story by Erika Check Hayden said that some researchers around the country say the grants and loans will benefit the field as a whole. She also carried a comment from the former chairman of the CIRM grants review group, Stuart Orkin. Orkin resigned his post last November and did not participate in the review of the disease team grants.

Hayden wrote,
“Other researchers have welcomed the awards, but note that many of the projects test ideas that are similar to work being funded elsewhere.

"'The general [new-grant] portfolio strikes me as being similar to what is going on elsewhere,'" says haematologist Stuart Orkin of the Children's Hospital Boston in Massachusetts. 'I don't see anything radically different from what I see people thinking about in other institutions, but it's great to have the funding to do it.'

“For instance, two of the grants will fund work to develop monoclonal antibodies — targeted biological drugs that are already approved for many indications — to target cancer cells. Another grant will try to use a patient's own cardiac stem cells to repair damage from heart attacks, a controversial approach that is already being tested in patients. A fourth grant aims to modify patients' bone-marrow cells to correct the genetic defect that causes sickle-cell anaemia, then implant the cells back into patients.

“A similar approach has been used to treat severe combined immunodeficiency disorder. 'That would have been called gene therapy before, instead of stem-cell therapy, and there are a number of people doing that,' Orkin points out.”
The magazine also carried an item last week on its blog.

Don Gibbons
, chief communications officer for CIRM, has pointed out that the grants received more coverage than we reported last week. We found another story in a local paper in Los Angeles, the Daily News, and one on a Los Angeles radio station, KPCC. The Daily News story was reprinted in the Contra Costa Times. Other stories appeared elsewhere as well.

In our reporting on news coverage of CIRM events, we rely on Internet search engines, which are not perfect and sometimes slow. Plus we do not necessarily mention every news report in our items, just the ones of interest with higher impact or interesting reporting or commentary.

CIRM has a standing invitation to comment on any subject, including accounts of CIRM news coverage, on the California Stem Cell Report. We have told the agency on more than one occasion we will carry their commentary verbatim, a practice that is not found in the mainstream media.

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