WIKIMEDIA, NISSIM BENVENISTYIn late 2011, Geron discontinued its clinical trial for a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) treatment for spinal cord injury, along with the rest of its stem cell program. Two years later, a company launched by two former Geron CEOs purchased the shuttered stem cell and regenerative medicine business. And now, San Francisco-based Asterias Biotherapeutics/BioTime may be set to resume the hESC spinal cord injury trial.
The California Stem Cell Report covered this latest development last week (May 22), after an anonymous commenter on the blog referenced the agenda for a May 29 meeting of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which recently awarded Asterias/BioTime $14.3 million. “The Strategic Partnership III Award reviews are in,” the commenter wrote: “Asterias Biotherapeutics/BioTime will get $14 million to restart spinal cord injury trial with GRNOPC1.”
Indeed, the California Stem Cell Report confirmed that the title of the funding application was “A Phase I/IIa Dose Escalation Safety Study of [REDACTED] in Patients with Cervical Sensorimotor Complete Spinal Cord Injury.” While neither CIRM nor Asterias/BioTime have made any formal announcements concerning the trials resurrection, the California Stem Cell Report stated that the proposal “is virtually certain to be approved by the CIRM governing board, which rarely rejects such positions.”
CIRM also helped fund the original Geron trial. Just three months before the company discontinued its entire stem cell program, in fact, the state agency provided $25 million for the project. According to the California Stem Cell Report, “Geron paid back the loan with interest.”