Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Ties to Big Pharma and Venture Capital Proposed at California Stem Cell Agency

The $3 billion California stem cell agency wants to recruit major biotech and venture capital firms to help provide tens of millions of dollars in research awards to California enterprises.

It's part of a move to “jump start” partnerships in a relatively new, $80 million, business-friendly program that is aimed at pushing therapies into the marketplace. The recruitment plan will come before the agency's governing board at its meeting next Wednesday in San Diego. 

Participating companies will have a special relationship with the state agency, including early input into concept funding proposals prior to their being presented to the agency's governing board. The “industry collaborators” will also be able to attend agency workshops and meetings involving hundreds of grant recipients. Presumably other, non-collaborating firms would be barred.

Other provisions of the plan call for special event-hosting arrangements aimed at creating more collaborations and posting of information from the selected collaborators on the CIRM website.

According to a CIRM staff document, the initiative would be limited to biotech and pharmaceutical firms with a market capitalization of at least $500 million and “qualified venture capital firms.” The document did not define what a “qualified a venture capital firm” is. The document also appeared to bar participation of privately held firms because of the “market capitalization” criteria, which typically uses a formula involving publicly traded shares.

Elona Baum, the agency's general counsel and vice president, business development, said in a statement provided to the California Stem Cell Report,
“This is aimed at trying to jump start the creation of the partnerships that are required to satisfy the commercial validation requirements of the Strategic Partnership Funding Initiative so that timelines are better synced-up as between our review and approval cycles for the Strategic Partnership RFAs and the lengthy time required for investors to conduct due diligence and negotiate an agreement with prospective applicants to Strategic Partnership RFAs.  CIRM's independent review and approval remains the same and is wholly independent. While there may be input given to a particular RFA it only at the high level concept stage and of course CIRM has no obligation to agree. In the context of the Strategic Partnership awards, CIRM wants to fund innovative high quality science that has attracted additional  investors.  Investors will help leverage CIRM fund and will be an important source of future funding to further the project.”  

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