Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Nearly $15 Million: California Targets Eye Disease and Kidney Transplants for Stem Cell Therapy

Directors of the California stem cell agency this week formally awarded a total of $14.9 million to Stanford scientist Samuel Strober and Henry Klassen of UC Irvine for clinical trials involving kidney transplants and eye disease, respectively.

Henry Klassen, jCyte photo
The largest award, $8.3 million, went to Klassen and continues support for development of a treatment for retinitis pigmentosa. Klassen has received $19 million already from the $3 billion stem cell agency.

Jing Yang, jCyte photo
Klassen's award for a phase two clinical trial will be partially matched with $5.5 million in matching funds involving jCyte, Inc., of Newport Beach, Ca., which Klassen co-founded along with Jing Yang, also of UC Irvine.

Rosie Barrero, CIRM photo
Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications, wrote today on the agency's blog about a conversation he had with Rosie Barrero, who took part in the first phase of the trial. She said,
“There’s more definition, more colors. I am seeing colors I haven’t seen in years. We have different cups in our house but I couldn’t really make out the different colors. One morning I woke up and realized ‘Oh my gosh, one of them is purple and one blue’. I was by myself, in tears, and it felt amazing, unbelievable.”
If you are interested in participating in the trial, email Jacqueline Tidball at

Strober's award is his first from the stem cell agency. McCormack said the Strober team is "using a deceptively simple approach to help people who get a kidney transplant."

Samuel Strober, Stanford photo
McCormack continued, 
"Currently people who get a transplant have to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of their life to prevent their body rejecting the new organ. These powerful immunosuppressive medications are essential but also come with a cost; they increase the risk of cancer, infection and heart disease."
He said, 
"The Stanford team will see if it can help transplant patients bypass the need for those drugs by injecting blood stem cells and T cells (which play an important role in the immune system) from the kidney donor into the kidney recipient. The hope is by using cells from the donor, you can help the recipient’s body more readily adjust to the new organ and reduce the likelihood the body’s immune system will attack it."
Both UC Irvine and Stanford have representatives on the 29-member stem cell agency board. They are not allowed to vote on specific grants to their institutions. Roughly 90 percent of the agency's funding has gone to institutions with links to board members.

Here is a link to the review summary of Strober's application(CLIN2-09439). Here is a link to the review summary on Klassen's application (CLIN2-09698).

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