Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trimming Time on Stem Cell Therapies -- A $30 Million Push in the Golden State

CIRM graphic and text on its pitching machine, consisting of the translating
and accelerating centers. Discovery is basic research. 
Application scored at 89
Dramatic reductions in time expected
Unusual 'trinity' support

California's stem cell agency next week is set to approve the second part of a $30 million "pitching machine" aimed at accelerating stem cell research and translating it into therapies that can save people's lives.

An as yet-to-be-identified organization will receive $15 million under the proposal (INFR2-09298) to be considered publicly by the full board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the Oakland-based state agency is formally known.

The plan has already been enthusiastically endorsed by CIRM's out-of-state scientific reviewers who gave it a score of 89 out of 100 in a closed-door session, according to a CIRM summary of the review. The CIRM board almost never overturns a decision by its reviewers.

A competing proposal (INFR2-09233), also considered behind closed doors, was rejected by reviewers. They gave it a score of less than 60, declaring that the application did not focus on the agency's objectives but rather on the unidentified applicant's proprietary technology.

The "pitching machine" description came from Randy Mills, president of the stem cell agency, who last December told the CIRM board last December that the agency should dramatically reduce the number of years it takes for a stem cell therapy to reach patients.

CIRM photo and text
One-half of the machine -- the accelerating center -- involves a $15 million contract with QuintilesIMS.  Last week, the company formally kicked off its new operations on behalf of CIRM in
San Diego. Speaking at the ceremonies for the opening, Mills said the intent was to create "a center for the world’s most brilliant researchers and innovators in cell therapy that gives them the tools they need to successfully navigate this regulatory system."

The agency said Quintiles will provide support and management services that scientists need to boost the chances that their clinical trials will be successful. Conventional clinical trials can have a 90 percent failure rate. The presumption is that stem cell clinical trials, which are relatively new, are likely to have a higher failure rate. 

The $15 million award next week will create a translating center to work with the accelerating center being run by Quintiles.

In December, Mills said,
"There's a lot of opportunity in this translational phase for us to go after. We can literally cut this phase in half. So the research centers are excited about it, and the FDA was excited about it, and I was excited about it. And that's a very, very unusual trinity to have." 
CIRM said in the review summary,
"Our ultimate goal is to empower the translating center and other elements of CIRM infrastructure to become the premier enabler of cell based therapies to patients in California and worldwide."
The winner of the translating center award will have to start work by early December under the terms of the award. 

Next week's one-hour board meeting will be held telephonically with locations from which the public can participate in Oakland, San Diego, Napa, Fresno, Santa Barbara, Los Gatos, Sacramento, Irvine and San Francisco. The session will be audiocast online and via an 800 number. Addresses and directions can be found on the agenda.
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