Friday, May 11, 2012

StemCells, Inc., Hoping for as Much as $40 Million from California Stem Cell Agency

StemCells, Inc., said today it has applied for as much as $40 million in funding from the California stem cell agency for two projects dealing with Alzheimer's disease and cervical spinal cord injury.

The announcement came in a news release dealing with the publicly traded firm's quarterly earnings. The applications are part of a $240 million round expected to be acted on in late July by the board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency. Funding for businesses in the disease team round is expected to come through a loan.

StemCells, Inc., of Newark, Ca., said,
"In January 2012, we submitted two applications to the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for 'Disease Team Therapy Development Research Awards,' one for Alzheimer's disease and one for cervical spinal cord injury. A research award may be up to $20 million, payable over four years, to fund preclinical and IND-enabling activities with the aim of starting human clinical trials within a four-year window."
Applications in the round were reviewed behind closed doors in April. CIRM also has a policy of not releasing the names of applicants until its board acts and then only if an applicant is approved. CIRM says it does not want to embarrass firms that do not win approval. That includes individual researcher names as well as the names of such institutions as the University of California.

During discussion of grant applications by the CIRM board, directors are not told the names of the applicants, just the number of the application. If board members have conflicts of interest on specific applications, they are barred from voting on and discussing the application. The names of applicants have occassionally slipped out. Sometimes their identities can also be discerned by information contained in the summaries of the reviews of the applications, which become available on the CIRM web site shortly before the directors act. The summaries normally carry scientific scores and recommendations for funding.

Most companies seeking funding from CIRM do not identify themselves in advance, although they do if they appeal a negative decision by reviewers. The board has ultimate authority for approval of grants but has almost never rejected a recommendation for funding by reviewers.

StemCells Inc. was founded by Irv Weissman of Stanford, who sits on its board of directors. Weissman is also on its scientific advisory board along with Fred Gage of Salk and David Anderson of Caltech. Weissman and Gage have won substantial grants from CIRM. 

StemCells Inc.'s stock price closed at 92 cents yesterday. Its 52-week high was $8.20, and its 52 week low was 70 cents.

Here is a link to an analyst's report on the company.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated that the disease team round will be acted on later this month.)

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