Saturday, May 19, 2012

San Diego Biotech Firm Appeals Rejection of Cancer Stem Cell Grant

A San Diego biotech firm, Eclipse Therapeutics, whose multimillion dollar grant application was rejected by reviewers at the California stem cell agency, is asking the agency's board to overturn the decision next Thursday.

Eclipse, a spinoff from Biogen Idec, said it is reducing its request from $3.5 million because it has raised $2 million since it applied for the grant six months ago. However, its appeal did not state specifically how much it was now requesting from CIRM. The research involves cancer stem cells.

The company's appeal said that during the period following submission of its application, it has accomplished all of the activities that CIRM had identified as the first milestone in the research project. Eclipse also said it has accomplished a number of activities in milestones two and three. The firm said that it is now accelerating its IND filing by one year.

Eclipse was formed in March 2011 with $2 million in seed funding from City Hill Ventures, also of San Diego, according to a Bioworld article by Marie Powers. The co-founders are Peter Chu, now president of Eclipse, and Christopher Reyes, chief scientific officer. Chu and Reyes ran Biogen Idec's cancer stem cell program. They are also the applicants for the CIRM grant.

Their appeal carried a routine cover letter to the CIRM board from CIRM President Alan Trounson. He made no comment on the worthiness of the request. On an earlier appeal from Stuart Lipton of Sanford-Burnham, Trounson's cover letter said Lipton's letter was "without merit."

Eclipse said its proposal received a scientific score of 58 out of 100 from CIRM reviewers. CIRM, however, has not released the company's score. Two other proposals with scores of 53 were approved by reviewers.

For several years, CIRM has been sharply criticized for its failure to fund businesses in a significant way. It is currently moving to engage them more closely. If Eclipse's appeal is successful, it will be one of less than 20 business to be funded without a nonprofit partner. Businesses have received only about 4 percent of CIRM's $1.3 billion in awards to 494enterprises.

Appeals from rejected applicants are included in the agenda material presented to the CIRM board, but the board does not have to act on them or discuss them. Researchers can also appear before the board to make a case.

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