Friday, February 23, 2018

California's Stem Cell Agency Hits 45 Clinical Trials

Directors of the $3 billion California stem cell agency yesterday added another clinical trial to its portfolio, bringing to 45 the number of its forays into the late stage research that is the most likely to produce a therapy sooner rather than later.

The decision on the $5.7 million award carries more weight in terms of the viability of the agency than might ordinarily be assumed. The agency's cash is running out. It is facing its demise in less than two years unless prodigious funding raising efforts are successful.

One of those efforts involves asking California voters in the fall of 2020 for $5 billion more in bond funding. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine or CIRM, as the agency is formally known, would dearly love to point to a therapy or cure that would resonate with voters.

Thursday's award went to Joseph Rosenthal, director of pediatric hematology and oncology at the City of Hope and lead investigator on the trial. He told the agency,
"CIRM funding will allow us to conduct a Phase 1 trial in six adult patients with severe SCD (sickle cell disease). We believe this treatment will improve the quality of life of patients while also reducing the risk of graft-versus-host disease and transplant-related complications. Our hope is that this treatment can be eventually offered to SCD patients as a curative therapy.”
CIRM directors also approved a $4 million award to Fate Therapeutics, Inc., of San Diego, a publicly traded firm that is developing a "natural killer" cell cancer immunotherapy derived from induced pluripotent stem cells.

CIRM said that the goal is to treat many patients in an "off-the-shelf manner." The firm hopes to launch a clinical trial in 2019. Fate's stock closed at $10.58 today, down one cent. Its 52-week low is $2.52 and its 52-week high $11.70.

Here is a link to CIRM's press release on the awards. Here is a link to the CIRM blog item on the matter. Here is a link to the Fate Therapeutics press release which the company posted this morning.
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