Monday, April 9, 2012

Progress Toward Therapies: CIRM’s therapies in development

Kevin McCormack is the new Sr. Director of Public Communications and Patient Advocate Outreach at CIRM. His first post on our blog introduces CIRM’s 2011 Annual Report section on our progress toward therapies. We’ve been rolling out annual report stories throughout the past few weeks and will be posting the full report online in early April.

Back in 2004 when Proposition 71 - creating the stem cell agency - was on the state ballot, I was working as a producer in local TV news in San Francisco. I did many stories on the issue and always came away thinking ‘what a cool idea that is.’ Fast forward to today and I’m the new kid on the block in the Communications department at CIRM and can’t quite get over the thrill of being here, being part of such an incredible group of people, and such incredibly important work.

After the initial flurry of stories about CIRM in 2004 the topic of stem cells dropped out of the news for a while. That’s understandable when you consider how back then the science of stem cells was still very much in its early days and that it takes time to produce results of any kind – even in the most basic of studies.

Today, I think a lot of people will be surprised to see just how far we have come in such a relatively short space of time. Since our founding CIRM has funded a couple of hundred grants that have laid the foundation of our understanding of stem cell science. By 2011 43 of those projects - in 26 different diseases - were in the transition to the clinic. Those covered a wide range of conditions from heart disease and leukemia, to Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Some of those studies are still in the early stages, establishing what’s called “proof of concept” to show that the theory behind the therapy works. Others are much further along the pipeline and much closer to clinical trials where those therapies will be tested in people.

Here’s a diagram that shows at a glance how many different kinds of studies we are doing and where they are on the development pipeline.

If you would like to see a more detailed breakdown of which specific diseases are being studied and the process of getting from basic science to therapies you can find that on our website section called Progress Toward Therapies.

Of course in many ways this is still just the beginning of our journey and our grantees still have a huge amount of work to do. But each month brings new findings from researchers around California, and indeed the world, of the power and potential of stem cell therapies. Many of those studies were funded by CIRM, or are the product of collaborations with CIRM-funded researchers. Each one adds another piece of knowledge to the field, helping take us ever closer to finding more effective treatments for deadly diseases.

In the coming months and years I will be sharing news of those developments with you, keeping you informed on progress in the research, and letting you know how our tax dollars are pushing forward the boundaries of science and making California the center of a whole new kind of research.

Here are links to stories from our 2011 Annual Report that we’ve introduced in previous blog entries:

Kevin McCormack Sr. Director of Public Communications and Patient Advocate Outreach


  1. Mr. McCormack,

    Welcome to CIRM as Sr. Director of Public Communications and Patient Advocate Outreach!

    Can you confirm if this is true?

    California Stem Cell Agency Nixes ACT Grant Applications 15 Times. The only firm in the nation conducting an ongoing hESC clinical trial has been rejected 15 times for funding by California's $3 billion stem cell agency.

  2. are you doing research for Cerebral Palsy?

  3. CIRM recently held a workshop to understand how stem cells could be used in therapies for cerebral palsy. You can read the workshop report here:

    None of our awards specifically target cerebral palsy, though many of our grantees are working with neural stem cells, and their work could benefit people with several different neural diseases including cerebral palsy. You can see a list of those awards here:[]=418

    I hope this is useful.