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Stem cells: CIRM funds Geron Corp. spinal cord injury trial

May 04, 2011|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times

On Wednesday morning the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced a $25-million award to support a spinal cord injury trial.  It is the first time that the $3-billion state stem cell funding agency has backed a human clinical trial. 

As expected by observers, the award is a loan to Geron Corp., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based biopharmaceuticals firm that has been working on a treatment for spinal cord injuries that is derived from human embryonic stem cells.  Geron uses the cells to derive oligodendrocyte progenitor cells.  In rats, when these have been injected at the site of spinal cord injuries, they develop into cells that produce myelin, a substance that insulates nerve cells and is necessary for healthy nerve function. 

The CIRM-backed trial will examine the treatment's safety, as well as how patients respond to different doses of the cells.

"Supporting the Geron trial is a landmark step for CIRM," CIRM chairman Robert Klein said in a statement.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2010, the agency has shifted its focus toward research that will produce cures relatively quickly. In early years, CIRM concentrated on funding basic science research.

John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica, Calif., said that making a loan to support a clinical trial made sense.  While his group has worried in the past about awards becoming "boondoggles," he said in this case Geron's trial was vetted carefully and the company met the requirements needed for funding. "It could provide cures.  That's what everyone wants," he said. "I'm watching it with interest." 

CIRM also announced 27 new grants, totalling $37.7 million, for scientists conducting basic biology research.

RELATED:

On Tuesday, Booster Shots reported on speculationthat Geron Corp.'s spinal cord injury trial would receive CIRM funding.


On Wednesday morning the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced a $25 million award to support a spinal cord injury trial.  It is

the first time the state's $3 billion stem cell funding agency has backed a human clinical trial.  

As expected by observers, the award went to Geron Corp., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based biopharmaceuticals firm that has been working on a treatment for

spinal cord injuries that is derived from human embryonic stem cells.  Geron uses the cells to derive oligodendrocyte progenitor cells.  When these

have been injected at the site of spinal cord injuries in rats, they can develop into cells that produce myelin, which insulates nerve cells and is

necessary for healthy nerve function.  

The CIRM-backed trial will examine the treatment's safety, as well as how patients respond to different doses of the cells.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2010 [[http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-stem-cells10-2010jan10,0,725609,full.story]], CIRM

has begun shifting some focus toward research that will produce cures relatively quickly. In early years, the agency mainly funded basic science

research. "Supporting the Geron trial is a landmark step for CIRM," said chairman Robert Klein, in a statement.  

John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica, Calif., said that making a grant to support a clinical trial made sense.  

While his group has worried in the past about grants becoming "boondoggles," he said, in this case Geron's trial was vetted carefully, and the company

met the requirements needed for funding. "It could provide cures.  That's what everyone wants," he said. "I'm watching it with interest."  

CIRM also announced Wednesday that it would award 27 new awards totalling $37.7 million to scientists conducting basic biology research.

RELATED:

On Tuesday, Booster Shots reported on speculation that Geron Corp.'s spinal cord injury trial would be awarded CIRM funding this week.

[[http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-cirm-funding-clinical-trial-stem-cells-20110503,0,2670485.story]]

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