Geron is getting a big boost from the state of California stem cell agency to see if it can deliver the goods with an embryonic stem cell therapy for spinal cord injuries.
The Menlo Park, CA-based company (NASDAQ: GERN) said it has been awarded $25 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to support the first of three phases of clinical trials normally required by the FDA for approval of a new therapy. The award is structured so that the state will provide matching support along with Geron through the Phase 1 trial, and Geron said it is obligated to pay the state money back if its treatment is commercially successful.
The award from the state agency marks the first time it has made the leap from financing basic lab research to the more focused stage of product development in clinical trials. Robert Klein, the stem cell agency chairman, called it a “landmark step” in a statement. It’s also an important sign to many cash-strapped biotech companies, who are looking for alternatives to venture capital to help build value in their scientific programs. Geron, of course, isn’t the only biotech company with an eye toward product development that’s getting support from the state stem cell agency. A few notable awards have gone to San Diego-based ViaCyte, South San Francisco-based iPierian, and Richmond, CA-based Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO).