Tuesday, December 13, 2016

California's Stem Cell Research Pot Shrinking to Only $692 Million

$328 million for 2017 awards
Clinical research to jump to $215 million
New award cash runs out in 2020

The California stem cell agency is now down to its last $692 million after starting out 12 years ago with $3 billion and the promise of generating therapies that could help as many as nearly half of the state's families.

As of today, the agency -- formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) -- has yet to produce a widely available therapy.  But it has helped to fund treatments that have saved individual lives during the research process, and it is backing 22 clinical trials.

The state of the stem cell agency's finances was reported as part of the agenda for today's governing board meeting in Oakland. On tap is a recommendation from Randy Mills, president of CIRM, that the board approve spending $328 million for research awards in 2017.

Also expected to be discussed are some of the success stories of CIRM, which was created through a ballot initiative in 2004. Voters were promised during the $34 million campaign that "cures will be coming soon."  Backers of the initiative said that nearly half of all California families include a person who suffers from a condition that could be treated with stem cell therapies.

CIRM documents prepared for today's meeting showed that this year the agency awarded nearly $262 million for research. The largest amount -- $87.1 million -- went for clinical level programs.   Basic research, called "discovery" by CIRM, received nearly $47 million, slightly above the $43 million for education. Translational research received nearly $55 million while an infrastructure program chalked up $30 million.

For 2017, clinical programs would jump to as much as $215 million under Mills' proposal. Discovery would come in at $52 million, translation at $45 million, infrastructure at $16 million (two new Alpha stem cell clinics) with no awards for education. None of the awards are for buildings or labs.
The total would be $328 million.

That would leave $364 million in awards for 2018 through 2020, assuming the agency's budget projections come in as expected.

The agency has about $528 million in uncommitted funds. However, "returns" from awards are expected to raise the available amount for awards to $692 million. Returns of cash are generated when researchers do not meet funding benchmarks or when an award is terminated early for whatever reason.

The agency is funded through state bonds. Those will run out for new awards in 2020, according to CIRM estimates.

As of the end of the year, the agency projects it will have 255 awards under active management with a value of $406 million.

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