Friday, January 19, 2018

California Makes a $25 Million Kidney Transplant Wager: Its 44th Stem Cell Clinical Trial

The California stem cell agency this week more than doubled down on its bet on a potentially breakthrough treatment for kidney transplants, raising to $25.4 million its support for a project that is entering its final stages.

The hope is that the treatment will not only improve the success rate of kidney transplants but also lead to use in liver, heart and other solid organ transplants. If successful, the therapy would eliminate the need for immunosuppressive drugs in genetically matched kidney transplant patients.

Maria Millan, CIRM photo 
Maria Millan, president of the agency, said in a news release:
“These immunosuppressive drugs not only can cause harmful side effects, but they are also expensive and some patients lose their transplant either because they can’t afford to pay for the drugs, or because their effectiveness is not adequate."
The award also could help save the life of the stem cell agency, which is facing its financial demise as its funding runs out.

The award brings to 44 the number of clinical trials being assisted by the $3 billion agency, formally known as the  California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM). Clinical trials are the last stages of research prior to certification by the federal government of a treatment for widespread use.

The stem cell agency is hoping that one of its trials will soon produce a therapy that will resonate with California voters who may be asked in 2020 to provide $5 billion more. The agency expects to run out of state funding next year and is attempting to raise more than $200 million privately to tide it over until a bond election in  November 2020.

Action on the award was swift on Thursday. It took less than eight minutes for the agency governing board to unanimously approve an $18.8 million award to Medeor Therapeutics, Inc., of San Mateo, Ca. The award comes on top of a $6.7 million investment in the firm's research in 2016.

Steven Deitcher, Medeor photo
The vote simply ratified a decision on the Phase 3 trial that was already made by the agency's reviewers, who gave the research strong support during a meeting behind closed doors weeks earlier.

Steven Deitcher, co-founder and president of Medeor, said in the agency's news release,
"CIRM funding accelerates our timelines, and these timelines are what stand between needy patients and potential transformative therapies. This CIRM award combined with investor support represent a public-private collaboration that we hope will make a difference in the lives of organ transplant recipients in California, the entire U.S., and beyond."

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