Friday, November 18, 2016

$3 Billion California Stem Cell Agency Now Involved in 23 Clinical Trials

The California stem cell agency yesterday pumped $38 million into three clinical trials with the hope that it will lead to therapies for colorectal cancer, "bubble boy" syndrome and a form of high blood pressure.

The action brought to 23 the number of current clinical trials in which the $3 billion agency is participating via funding in whole or in part, according to information on its Web site. It is hoping that one of those trials will produce its first widely available stem cell therapy.

The trials deal with afflictions ranging from HIV and Huntington's Disease to blindness and skin cancer.

The agency's cash for new awards will run out in about three years. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known, has been in business since 2004 when voters created the agency through a ballot initiative.

Yesterday's funding was expected and largely reported earlier this week by the California Stem Cell Report (see here and here). Yesterday, the agency's board simply ratified -- in a matter of minutes -- decisions in October by its grant review group, which makes the de facto decisions on awards behind closed doors and without publicly disclosing the economic and professional interests of reviewers.

Here is a link to the press release from the agency and a link to its blog item. Here are links to the review summaries of each proposal: colorectal, bubble boy and blood pressure.

The summaries were the only information that the board had in approving the three grants.

During its telephonic meeting yesterday, the board also became entangled in a budgeting and priorities debate involving four translational research proposals, all of which the agency now says are hanging fire. An effort is being made to schedule a special board meeting soon to deal with the issue, but it requires 10-days advance public notice. The California Stem Cell Report will have a full report later on the situation.

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