Friday, September 07, 2012

StemCells, Inc., Gunning for Another $10 Million from California Stem Cell Agency

Fresh from winning $40 million from the California stem cell agency, StemCells, Inc., is shooting for another, $10 million award from the state research effort.

The latest proposal comes as the publicly traded firm also faces the task of raising $40 million that it has promised the agency to match the earlier awards. That figure could well rise to $50 million given the new application.

Martin McGlynn, CEO of the well-connected Newark, Ca., firm, disclosed StemCells, Inc.'s, latest proposal in an article by Catherine Shaffer in BioWorld. She wrote,
“Already looking ahead, StemCells has set its sights on one more CIRM initiative designed to fund early stage clinical trials over a four-year period. StemCells has applied for that grant, worth up to $10 million, to fund a Phase II trial in PMD(Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease).”
The article did not disclose the timing on the new application.

StemCells, Inc.'s lobbying efforts with the stem cell agency were vigorously aided by the former chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, Robert Klein (see here and here). And Wednesday evening, the company convinced the state agency's board to overturn two successive reviewer rejections of a $20 million proposal for Alzheimer's research. The vote was 7-5.

Klein's efforts came in a record-breaking round of appeals and emotional presentations by patient advocates, which triggered complaints from the board this week about "arm-twisting" and politicking. 

StemCells, Inc., was founded by the eminent Stanford stem cell researcher Irv Weissman, who helped to raise millions for the ballot initiative that created the stem cell agency. He additionally appeared in in the campaign's TV advertising. The campaign was headed by Klein, who ultimately raised $35 million to convince voters to create the agency. Weissman is currently on the board of the StemCells, Inc. His wife is executive vice president.

In July, the stem cell agency board approved the first $20 million award to the firm for research involving spinal injury.

McGlynn told BioWorld,
"We're the only company that has programs going on in all three regions of the central nervous system: the brain, the spinal cord and the eye."
Not discussed in the BioWorld article was a requirement, imposed by the CIRM board, that StemCells, Inc., show it can deliver $20 million in matching funds on the Alzheimer's award before receiving any state funds. CIRM said no such board requirement existed on the spinal award, but the firm has promised to match the $20 million on that award as well.

BioWorld described the awards as grants. In fact, they are loans. But under the terms of the loans, if the research is not successfully commercialized, it will be forgiven.  

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