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.
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.