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Friday, April 10, 2009

A Year in The Life of California’s Stem Cell Research Program

This is a continuation of an article titled “A Year in The Life of California’s Stem Cell Research Program” written by Don C. Reed, Sponsor of Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, Founder and Co-Chair of Californians for Cures, and Vice President of Public Policy for Americans for Cures Foundation.

TRAINING NEW SCIENTISTS: CIRM RESEARCH TRAINING PROGRAM II

For too long, only scientists in their mid to late forties, folks who had their PhD’s for almost a decade, have been able to receive funding from the NIH.

But if we only fund scientists that far along in their career, how will the field grow? If young scientists cannot get grants, their options are limited. At best, they will work for other scientists, doing research directed by them instead of blazing their own trail; or, financial need may drive them out of the field altogether.

The very first project CIRM funded was training grants, to help new scientists into our field, an oasis of funding in what had been barren desert. Training Program II continues providing funds for these young men and women and their labs: allocating $40 million for this vital effort.

But even the greatest scientist cannot do his or her work alone.

TEAM ASSISTANCE: Generals are nothing without soldiers; even so, scientists rely on the assistance of trained professionals; where will they come from?

An educated and properly trained workforce is essential if our state is to retain its premier position and fully realize the medical and economic benefits from this emerging industry.”—joint statement, Senator Gloria Romero and Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg.

The “CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Awards” program is designed to insure training exists for these incredibly valuable technicians: the workforce to make the miracles possible, perhaps becoming future superstars themselves– you never know where success in such a new enterprise may lead.

$17 million in these Bridges awards has been approved.

But what about the business side? The greatest stem cell idea in the world means nothing, if it is not translated into something real and usable: and that means biotech.

LOANS

“Our new loan program for biotech companies is meant to provide… support for institutions testing the safety and efficacy of possible therapies.”—Robert N. Klein, Chair, ICOC.

Developed by our new Vice-Chairman Duane Roth and Finance subcommittee Chairman Michael Goldberg, (and of course Chairman Klein, who is pretty much everywhere) the new loan program is for $500 million—and hopefully an additional $500 million in federal loan guarantees as part of the stimulus package.

Numbers that big numb my brain like novocaine at the dentist’s.

But wait, there’s more!

“That amount would be scaled up by recycling an additional $1 billion in repayment proceeds over the first decade of the program. In short, with $500 million in federal long-term guarantees and recycled principal repayments, interest and stock warrant revenue from borrowers, over $1.5 billion in additional resources could be added to the Proposition 71 portfolio.”—BK.

As I understand it (always an element of doubt about that) this would be astonishing.

Leveraging five hundred million in state dollars to two billion, perhaps even two and half billion, so that California got five times the value of its initial investment?

And, these loans are targeted: designed to answer an unmet and colossal need.

CLINICAL TRIALS

Taking just one new product from idea to pharmacy costs hundreds of millions of dollars, due to safety testing.

The time between basic research and clinical trials completion is called the “Valley of death” because so many products and companies die during that period. What an agony it would be to have a great cure for paralysis, for example, and then watch it fail-- for lack of money to pay for those tests.

The new loan program is designed to help turn the ideas of cure into products everyone can use: promising new medicines or therapies through the grueling cycle of tests, so they can be submitted to the FDA for approval.

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