Friday, September 29, 2017

$75 Million For California Stem Cell Research: Brain Cancer, Sickle Cell, Alpha Clinics and More

OAKLAND, Ca. -- The California stem cell agency yesterday handed out $75 million, doubling down on a couple of efforts to develop a stem cell therapy and a stem cell tool, plus funding an expansion of its Alpha Clinic network with two new, Northern California sites.

The awards bring to $2.34 billion that the nearly 13-year-old agency has committed to stem cell research. The awards also leave the agency with $414 million in uncommitted funds. The state research program, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), expects to run out of cash for new awards in less than three years.

The clinical program awards yesterday targeted such afflictions as diabetes, brain cancer and sickle cell anemia. One award of $20 million set a new mark for one CIRM-funded project.

That award went to Viacyte, Inc., of San Diego, bringing to more than $71 million that the agency has pumped into the firm, the largest amount provided to any single project. The firm is seeking to create an implant that would basically be a virtual cure for diabetes.

Also reinforced with more millions was Humacyte, Inc, of North Carolina. It received $14.1 million for its stem cell tool on top of the $10 million it has already received.  The firm is working on a new type of "lifeline" for kidney disease patients undergoing hemodialysis.

The agency's Alpha Clinic Network received a $16 million infusion, split between two new sites, one in Sacramento and the other in the Bay Area. The latter is a joint effort involving pediatric work and UC San Francisco and Childrens' Hospital Oakland. The other award went to UC Davis, whose stem cell program is located in neighboring Sacramento. The Alpha network already has three sites in Southern California at City of Hope, UC San Diego and UCLA/UC Irvine. 

In a CIRM news release,  Abla Creasey, CIRM’s senior director of Strategic Clinical, Regulatory, and Infrastructure Programs, said,
“The Alpha Clinics are a one-of-a-kind network that gives patients access to the highest quality stem cell trials for a breadth of diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and spinal cord injury.” 
Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles lost out on its bid to be added to the Alpha network. The agency had allotted only $16 million to the expansion under its strategic plan. Directors have been loathe to add more funding to the plan. 

Other clinical stage funding included:
  • City of Hope, $12.8 million, PI Christine Brown, a Phase 1 CAR-T trial targeting an aggressive brain cancer called malignant glioma.
  • Nohla Therapeutics Inc., Seattle, Wa.,$6.9 million, a Phase 2 trial dealing with neutropenia, a condition that leaves people susceptible to deadly infections after receiving chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.
  • Forty Seven Inc., Menlo Park, $5 million, a Phase 1b clinical trial treating acute myeloid leukemia. 
  • Stanford, $5.2 million, PI Matthew Porteus, preparatory work for a clinical trial on a genome editing technology to correct the sickle cell disease mutation.
Here are links to summaries of the reviews of each application: UC Davis, UCSF/Childrens' Hopsital, Cedars-Sinai, Viacyte, Humacyte, City of Hope, Nohla, Forty Seven, Stanford.

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