Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stem Cell Agency Approves More than $70 Million Including Signing Bonus for Star at UCSB

LOS ANGELES -- The California stem cell agency today awarded $67 million for translational research and approved one appeal from a scientist whose application was turned down by grant reviewers.

The grants are a “key element of CIRM's pipeline to the clinic,” directors were told. The research is aimed at creating a “development candidate ready for IND-enabling preclinical development” or making progress on a development candidate.

Sophie Deng, an ophthalmologist at UCLA, was successful in her pitch to reverse a negative decision by reviewers. Following her presentation to the board, CIRM Director Jeff Sheehy, vice chairman of the grants review group, said the $1.5 million grant was a “no brainer.” He said it could lead to FDA approval of a treatment already being used in Europe.

One business, iPierian, Inc., of South San Francisco, was awarded $5.7 million, which will come in the form of a loan, assuming CIRM completes its paper work. James Harrison, outside counsel to the board, said that more documents needed to be processed. Ipierian is heavily backed by venture capitalists who contributed more than $6 million to the ballot initiative campaign that created the Calfiornia stem cell agency. The firm has already received a $1.5 million grant.

Directors put off action on an appeal petition by Leif Havton of UCLA as they were pressed for time at midafternoon. Members of the board needed to catch flights and lost a quorum. The board concurred earlier with reviewers' negative decisions on other two appeals by Frederick Meyers and Kit Lam of UC Davis and WenYong Chen of the City of Hope.

Another application, 1778, related to Parkinson's Disease was sent back to CIRM President Alan Trounson for additional review. The board has funded little research connected to Parkinson's because of the dearth of researchers in that area in California. Director Joan Samuelson, a patient advocate for Parkinson's Disease, pushed for funding of the grant.

Separately, the board awarded a $4.9 million grant to Peter Coffey of the United Kingdom, who was described by Trounson as “clearly one of the best scientists in the world.” The grant is aimed at helping to recruit Coffey to UC Santa Barbara. It was the second recruitment award by CIRM.

Coffey is already collaborating with Dennis Clegg, co-director of the UCSB Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, in connection with another CIRM grant.

Here is a link to the CIRM press release on the awards.

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