Tuesday, December 11, 2012

StemCells, Inc., and California Stem Cell Agency Remain Stalled over $40 Million

The California stem cell agency and StemCells, Inc., are still stalled in negotiations over how the firm will become eligible for $40 million from the state research effort – three months after the agency's governing board approved the awards.

The key issue is whether the agency is satisfied that the Newark, Ca., firm can provide $40 million in matching funds that it promised under the terms of two $20 million awards approved in late July and early September. The September award was approved on a 7-5 vote by agency directors after it was rejected twice by CIRM reviewers.

In response to a query by the California Stem Cell Report, Kevin McCormack, an agency spokesman, yesterday said the company and CIRM have not reached agreement.

CIRM directors okayed the September award in an appeals process that used a mechanism called “extraordinary petitions.” Last week, a blue-ribbon, Institute of Medicine study of the agency said the petitions should be abolished because they damage the integrity of the grant review process.

The September approval was the first time that agency directors approved an application that was rejected twice by reviewers. The action followed two appearances by the former chairman of the agency, Robert Klein, on behalf of StemCells, Inc. It was his first such appearance on behalf of an applicant.

The StemCells, Inc., award also triggered a column in the Los Angeles Times by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnst Michael Hiltzik. He wrote that the process was “redolent of cronyism” and said a “charmed relationship” existed among StemCells, Inc., its “powerful friends” and the stem cell agency.

StemCells, Inc., stock price reached a 52-week high on Sept. 4 of $2.67, well up from its 52-week low of 59 cents June 4. The stock was trading at $1.78 at the time of this writing.   

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