Friday, May 25, 2018

Incontinence to Cancer: California Kicks in $26 Million for Stem Cell Research

The California stem cell agency this week awarded more than $26 million in its hunt for treatments for afflictions ranging from cancer and incontinence to osteoporosis and eye disease.

The $3 billion agency's board ratified the five research grants in a 30-minute, telephonic meeting on Thursday with little debate. The applications were previously approved behind closed doors by the agency's out-of-state scientific reviewers.

The largest award -- $12 million -- went to a team at UCLA led by Steven Dubinett for a phase one clinical trial. The agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), said in a news release:
Steven Dubinett, UCLA photo
"The team is using the patient’s own immune system where their dendritic cells – key cells in our immune system – are genetically modified to boost their ability to stimulate their native T cells - a type of white blood cell - to destroy cancer cells. 
"The investigators will combine this cell therapy with the FDA-approved therapy pembrolizumab (better known as Keytruda) a therapeutic that renders cancer cells more susceptible to clearance by the immune system."
The research application approved this week that would likely have the most widespread application involved urinary incontinence. The $6 million award went to a Stanford team led by Bertha Chen. CIRM said,
Bertha Chen, Stanford photo
"Despite being one of the most common indications for surgery in women, one third of elderly women continue to suffer from debilitating urinary incontinence because they are not candidates for surgery or because surgery fails to address their condition. 
"The Stanford team is developing an approach using the patient’s own cells to create smooth muscle cells that can replace those lost in UI. If this approach is successful, it provides a proof of concept for replacement of smooth muscle cells that could potentially address other conditions in the urinary tract and in the digestive tract."
Here is the full list of winners and links to the summaries of the reviews of their applications and their scores. The review summaries other than the one for Dubinett can be found on a single document, which also contains the review summaries of the 10 rejected applications:
  • Steven Dubinett, UCLA, $12 million, application number CLIN2-10784, review summary, title advanced non–small cell lung cancer, co-funding not required but $400,000 provided
  • Bertha Chen, Stanford, $6 million, application number TRAN1-10958, review summary, title Autologous iPSC-derived smooth muscle cell therapy for treatment of urinary incontinence, co-funding not required
  • Cassandra Calloway, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, application number TRAN2-10990, review summary, target development of a noninvasive prenatal test for beta-hemoglobinopathies for earlier stem cell therapeutic interventions. co-funding not required
  • Farhad Parhami, Max BioPharma of Santa Monica, Ca., $1.7 million, application number TRAN1-10937, review summary, title therapeutic development of an oxysterol with bone anabolic and anti-resorptive properties for intervention in osteoporosis, co-funding not required
  • Magdalene Seiler, UC Irvine, $4.8 million, application number TRAN1-10995, review summary, title morphological and functional integration of stem cell derived retina organoid sheets into degenerating retina models, co-funding not required
Here is a link to an LA Business Journal story on the award to BioPharma.
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