Tuesday, September 11, 2018

California's Stem Cell Agency Touts Its "Incredible Ecosystem" of Research

The California stem cell agency today added more of its comments to last week's evaluation of its work by the San Franciso Chronicle in a lengthy piece that said the agency had not measured up to voter expectations.

The forum was The Stem Cellar, the blog of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the nearly 14-year-old agency is formally known. 

Maria Millan, CIRM photo

CIRM CEO Maria Millan, in a Q&A, elaborated on the value proposition offered by the agency and some of the points that were raised in the Chronicle article. Here are two excerpts from the blog. 
"Q: There have been many critics who say it’s taking too long for CIRM to deliver cures, and they expected more. What is your response to these people?
"A: Many of us can relate that relief cannot come quickly enough for our relatives and friends who suffer from debilitating and devastating medical conditions— I believe that is why many of us are at CIRM, an organization whose mission is to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. Through the years, we have enabled the creation of an incredible ecosystem of top scientists and researchers and partnered with patients and patient advocates to pursue this mission. We continually strive to improve and to become more efficient and we share the sense of urgency to harness the potential of stem cell biology to deliver relief to those in need.

"Q: Given all of the differences between CIRM and the NIH (National Institutes of Health), why do you think the reporter compared CIRM to the NIH?
"A: The NIH is the largest health research funder world-wide, has been around a lot 
longer, has a much larger budget >$30B this past year alone and the NHLBI
(National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) alone has a $3B annual budget—NHLBI is just one of the 27 NIH Institutes. The reason that CIRM was formed is that the advocates of Proposition 71 wanted to make sure that scientists and developers can pursue vital research opportunities that may not have access to funding by traditional funders, including the NIH. CIRM has a total budget of $3B available to fund research and support operations and we have been managing that budget since the passage of Proposition 71 in 2004. If we consider the number of stem cell trials for given available budget, CIRM has funded a disproportionately higher number of translational and clinical programs in stem cell and regenerative medicine. In fact, the NHLBI has entered into a collaboration with CIRM on their Cure Sickle Cell initiative because of CIRM’s specialization in funding and enabling cell-gene regenerative medicine research. I take this as a validation of CIRM’s value proposition in this new area– acceleration, translation, and clinical trials."
See here for more on the sickle cell initiative.
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