David Lesher wrote:
Those who speculate say that the most advanced stem cell treatments are still probably a decade away from becoming available to patients. And the cost to get them there will far exceed California's $3 billion investment. The hope was that California's bond would jump-start a biotech industry by building the laboratories and seeding early research to a point where private support would take over.CIRM is all too aware of the difficulty of getting industry and investors to pick up promising new therapies. We’ve ramped up our efforts this year to engage with those groups and introduce them to the CIRM-funded projects that are in the pipeline (you can read our blog about those efforts). The hope is by getting researchers interacting with potential industry partners early on, those projects will be attractive to investors who can support them through clinical trials.
But that point of commercial viability is a moving target as private investors have grown more risk averse and the regulatory path for such radical new therapies is unpredictable. So the biggest question today in the stem cell field is not whether the science will work someday. The big questions are how will we pay for it, how will regulators know when it's ready and when will it happen?
"We are at a time when venture capital doesn't invest as early as it used to," said Larry Goldstein, a leading stem cell scientist at UC San Diego. "So the public has to do it. You may not like the system, but that's the system."
The story went on to talk about CIRM’s 43 projects in 26 disease areas that are currently in the pipeline toward clinical trials. You can read more about that portfolio on our web site. The Sacramento Bee quoted CIRM board member Sherry Lansing talking about the portfolio:
"This is what the taxpayers are waiting to see," Sherry Lansing, a member of the board, said after the presentation. "You keep reading these articles - 'Where are the results? Where is the beef?' Now I think we can really answer that."Lesher makes clear that there are many challenges ahead in bringing new therapies to patients: he said of the voters who created CIRM, “It was pretty audacious of them in 2004 to try to create another economic driver like Silicon Valley and save lives at the same time.”
And while the vote was audacious, we agree with his conclusion that despite risks and challenges that vision is still possible.