The poet T. S. Eliot once wrote: “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” Well, everyone at CIRM, California’s stem cell institute, is about to find out how tall we are.
Yesterday our governing Board approved a new Strategic Plan. To call it ambitious might be considered an understatement. Among the goals it commits us to achieving are:
- Funding 50 new clinical trials in 5 years including 10 for rare or orphan disorders and 5 in conditions affecting children
- Fostering enactment of a new, more efficient federal regulatory approval process for stem cell treatments
- Introducing 50 new therapeutic candidates or devices into the development pipeline
- Reducing the time it takes to move a stem cell treatment from the earliest Discovery stage into a clinical trial by 50%
- Increasing the number of projects moving to the next stage of development by 50%
No easy task
Each goal by itself might be considered challenging. Taken together they are likely to stretch us all. And yet that’s why we joined CIRM, why we feel fortunate to be part of this mission. We have a chance to be part of a movement that could change the face of medicine as we know it. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. But now we know what we have to do to help achieve that.
As Randy Mills, our President and CEO, said in a news release, the goal in developing this Strategic Plan was to create a clear vision for the next five years of the Institute:
”We have around $900 million left to work with and we wanted a plan that used that money to the best possible effect, maximizing our chances of pushing as many new treatments to patients as possible. We didn’t want something ‘good enough’, we wanted something ‘great’. This plan is extremely ambitious, but also realistic in the goals it sets out and the way those goals can be met.”
The Strategic Plan – you can read it in full here – doesn’t just lay out goals, it also creates a road map on how to meet those goals. They include engaging industry more, being more creative in how we move the most promising projects from one stage of research to the next, and finding ways to change the regulatory approval process to help remove obstacles and speed up the progress of these therapies into clinical trials.
We know we may not achieve all our goals. As Randy Mills said at our Board meeting: “This is a difficult plan. These goals are not easy to achieve.” There are always risks in pursuing something so big and ambitious but no one ever achieved anything truly worthwhile by playing it safe. We are not interested in playing it safe.
We may start out by being, as T. S. Eliot put it “in over our heads”. But we’re confident we’ll be able to grow tall enough to make this plan work.
As Randy Mills told the Board: “If we are all in this together then the probability of success is high, and if we are successful then all this would have been worthwhile.”