Jonathan Thomas on CIRM’s progress toward stem cell therapies

Jonathan Thomas is Chair of the CIRM Governing Board

When I became Chair of CIRM this summer one of my first priorities was to reach out to the people of California and explain the progress we’ve made in developing new therapies. The agency only started funding research in 2007 and yet we already have 43 research projects that are in various stages of progress toward clinical trials.

At my first board meeting as chair, I and the rest of the board were excited about a presentation by Ellen Feigal, senior VP for R&D, and Pat Olson, executive director of scientific activities. They gave a detailed summary of all CIRM’s projects that have a goal of developing a therapy for one of 26 different diseases. Their summary, though exciting, was pretty technical. I thought if only the information were written in clear easy to understand language for the people of California, they couldn’t help but be as excited as I am about the agency and what it has accomplished. (We blogged about that presentation here.)

That summary is now available on our website, including a list of our awards that are in stages of developing therapies for 26 different diseases. We also explain the process our grantees go through to turn a basic science discovery into a new therapy, and we have information about what CIRM is doing to help smooth that pathway to get therapies to patients faster.

(You can also download this information in a PDF document.)

Given that it normally takes a decade or longer for a basic science discovery to reach clinical trials, 43 projects seemed to me like quite an achievement – an achievement that the people of California should take pride in supporting. Not only is CIRM driving stem cell science in our state, but through our national and international collaborations California has become a stem cell hub that accelerates stem cell progress worldwide.

I hope everyone who reads about our projects is as hopeful as I am about the future of stem cell therapies. As my friend Roman Reed says, CIRM is turning stem cells into cures.


2 thoughts on “Jonathan Thomas on CIRM’s progress toward stem cell therapies

  1. Progress will come when you actually help patients…everyone's excited…meanwhile I'd still like to know if those gern trials would have worked if the trials were extended??

    This paper seems awfully supportive…is everyone holding back ???????

    Rebuilding the brain’s circuitry
    Healthy neurons can integrate into diseased areas

    Repair at the cellular-level of the hypothalamus — a critical and complex region of the brain that regulates phenomena such as hunger, metabolism, body temperature, and basic behaviors such as sex and aggression — indicates the possibility of new therapeutic approaches to even higher-level conditions such as spinal cord injury, autism, epilepsy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

    “It’s interesting to note that these embryonic neurons were wired in with less precision than one might think,” Flier said. “But that didn’t seem to matter. In a sense, these neurons are like antennas that were immediately able to pick up the leptin signal. From an energy-balance perspective, I’m struck that a relatively small number of genetically normal neurons can so efficiently repair the circuitry.”

    “The finding that these embryonic cells are so efficient at integrating with the native neuronal circuitry makes us quite excited about the possibility of applying similar techniques to other neurological and psychiatric diseases of particular interest to our laboratory,” said Anderson.

    “The next step for us is to ask parallel questions of other parts of the brain and spinal cord, those involved in ALS and with spinal cord injuries,” Macklis said. “In these cases, can we rebuild circuitry in the mammalian brain? I suspect that we can.”

  2. Maybe the problems researchers are facing is not their ability to find treatments but getting through hurdles posted by a FDA that's in bed with the drug industry…if everyone's so innovative and bright how about lowering the costs and accelerating the time component?

    Lab at Hershey Medical Center identifies a virus that could kill cancer
    Published: Sunday, November 27, 2011, 12:00 AM

    Even once a drug or therapy passes through the FDA approval process, there’s one final step before it makes it to the general public — production and distribution.

    “You’ve got to get funding to bring it to the market, which involves getting [pharmaceutical industry] support,” Ayres said.

    And, she asked, what is the industry going to spend development costs on?

    “Something they can make money on,” she said. “These are the realities.”

    Bottom line: Even with unlimited funding, it could be another two to four years before Meyers injects AAV2 into the first patients.

    Until then, he’ll continue to receive the emails from desperate people, begging him for a cure.

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