Wednesday, December 11, 2013

California Stem Cell Meeting: CIRM Directors Decide to Press Harder on Therapy Development

Directors of the California stem cell agency today voted to intensify their focus on a handful of projects most likely to advance through clinical trials despite concerns that other efforts by the agency could suffer as a result.

On a unanimous roll call vote, the board approved a motion to create a priority system as recommended by its new Scientific Advisory Board.

"It is time for us to be brutal," said CIRM Director Sherry Lansing, a former Hollywood studio chief and former chair of the University of California board of regents. She said,
"Unless we have a home run in will be extremely difficult to get more funding."
The agency is expected to run out of cash for new grants in 2017. It is in the process of trying to devise a plan for some sort of private-public financial partnership. Discussion at the meeting also made it clear that another bond ballot measure has not been ruled out by some directors, who emphasized the need to show results to voters.

Several directors expressed concern that by making a decision to establish priorities the agency would be forgoing efforts to create "the strongest possible foundation" for stem cell science. They questioned whether the agency should behave like a business "trying to hit a home run." However, no votes were registered in opposition to setting priorities.

During this morning's meeting in Los Angeles, CIRM staff briefed directors on the status of CIRM research. The governing board was told that six to eight projects could be selected out of 23 with the goal of accelerating them into phase one and phase two clinical trials.

A figure of $200 million was mentioned as a possible set aside to help the projects move ahead, but the directors this morning did not approve a specific amount. That may come later today.

Several directors commented that today's meeting on priorities and future funding plans may well be the most significant in years.

The board is now at lunch.

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