Yesterday Ellen Feigal, CIRM’s Senior VP of R&D spoke on The HD View with Melissa Biliardi, who is a caregiver and advocate for her son who has Juvenile Huntington’s Disease. You can listen to that hour interview here.
Feigal started by talking about what is unique about CIRM, saying:
It’s the transformative nature of CIRM’s mission which is really to help patients who have debilitating diseases and injuries and it’s doing it in a very special way. That’s by trying to advance very innovative stem cell science into potential therapies and cures. There’s still a lot of urgent unmet medical needs.
CIRM came about through Proposition 71, which was driven primarily by patient advocacy groups who were eager for new stem cell-based therapies. Feigal talked about that patient focus in the research CIRM funds:
We fund basic ideas but it’s applied toward the human diseases or injuries. There’s a connection with the medical need. The basic type of research is the fundamental engine of discovery, which is essential and will continue, but what we are increasingly looking at are those types of programs that are necessary to get a product into people.
So far, CIRM has 43 translational awards in 26 disease areas that are in various stages of working towards clinical trials. You can read more about those programs on our web site. You can also read about our projects focusing on Huntington’s disease.
In answer to a question about what patient advocates can do help promote research toward a cure Feigal said:
We need to keep that engine of discovery alive. We need patient advocacy organizations to keep the urgency up there. We need researchers interested in focusing on this area. There’s a lot we still need to understand. It takes patient organizations and it takes funding to move these programs forward.
The program closed with information about how people can keep up-to-date on CIRM activities. In addition to following this blog, people can sign up on our web site to receive CIRM’s monthly newsletter and our press releases. Melissa Biliardi also noted CIRM YouTube channel CIRMTV where we post videos about CIRM initiatives and progress toward disease therapies. Here’s a video we produced about research toward a therapy for Huntington’s disease.