Friday, April 10, 2020

Covid-19 and California Stem Cell Agency: Plasma Research to be Funded in $5 Million Round

California's stem cell research agency, in an "emergency" move this morning, joined the search for a plasma treatment for Covid-19, stressing the importance of extending access to minority communities. 

It was only the second time in the 15-year history of the agency that its governing board invoked its "vital research opportunity" clause, which gives it authority to divert funding from stem cell research to other purposes.

Maria Millan, CEO and president of the agency, said in a statement,
“The intent behind this amendment is to be responsive to this COVID-19 crisis by leveraging CIRM’s funding programs, processes and infrastructure within the scientific ecosystem that it has supported to date.
"By providing an opportunity for the medical and scientific community to gather important data while using convalescent plasma treatment protocols on an emergency basis, CIRM is joining the global effort to  expedite treatments to patients in need in the midst of this global pandemic."
This morning's action, approved unanimously, adds plasma research to a $5 million grant round aimed at the coronavirus.  The round has rolling application deadlines. The first was last Tuesday and drew 19 applications. The next deadline is expected in about two weeks.

The board unanimously added a provision to the plasma proposal aimed at ensuring that it would reach into minority and medically under served areas of the state. 

The agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), is speeding its award process and expects winning applicants to be ready to begin their work within 30 days of approval of an award.

The use of plasma in treating Covid-19 has attracted international attention as well as here in California.   

CIRM directors also approved additional members to its panel of grant reviewers, all of whom come from out-of-state. The agency selects reviewers from the panel depending on the nature of their expertise. 

Here is a link to the CIRM news release on the action today.

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