September 2015 Newsletter

CIRM-Funded Clinical Trial for Spinal Cord Injury Reports Promising Results

On August 31st, Asterias Biotherapeutics reported preliminary positive results from its CIRM-funded clinical study using a human embryonic stem cell-based therapy to treat patients with spinal cord injury. In the first part of the Phase 1/2a clinical trial, three patients with severe spinal cord injuries at the neck were given a “low dose” injection of two million so-called AST-OPC1 cells to test the safety and feasibility of the stem cell treatment. The AST-OPC1 cells give rise to cells responsible for forming a conductive sheet around nerve cells that allows nerves to send electrical signals from one nerve to another. At the two month post-injection assessment, the first patient experienced no side effects and had an improved ASIA score, an impairment injury assessment scale. The other two patients showed no side effects. Asterias plans to treat a second group of patients with higher doses of AST-OPC1 cells.

CIRM-Funded Clinical Trial for Blinding Disease Treats First Patients

On August 12th, a CIRM-funded, UC Irvine-led clinical trial team announced they had treated their first four patients with a cell-based therapy for retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable disease that leads to blindness. The patients were each given a single injection of retinal progenitor cells in the most affected eye. It’s hoped these cells will help protect the photoreceptors in the retina that have not yet been damaged by RP, and even revive those that have been damaged but not yet destroyed by the disease.  Sixteen patients will be enrolled in this first phase and will be followed for 12 months to determine if the therapy is safe and if it has any beneficial effects on vision compared to the untreated eye. To learn more about the study or to enroll contact the UCI Alpha Stem Cell Clinic at 949-824-3990 or by email at

California's Stem Cell Bank is Open for Business

On September 1st, Coriell Institute for Medical Research opened the world's largest publicily available stem cell bank. The CIRM-funded Bank is offering the first 300 different induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines for researchers interested in gaining a deeper understanding of, and developing treatments for, 11 common diseases and disorders such as autism, heart, liver, lung and eye disease. Tissue samples are being collected by researchers at UC San Francisco, UC San Diego, UC Los Angeles and Stanford University. All donors undergo a rigorous consent and approval process before any tissue is collected. Once collected, those samples are then turned into different cell lines by Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) and then stored and distributed by Coriell Institute from a facility at the Buck Institute in Novato, California. Ultimately, tissue samples from up to 3000 volunteer donors will be collected. 

High Schoolers Celebrate a Stem Cell Summer of Taylor Swift and Jay-Z

Through the support of CIRM's Creativity Awards grant, about 70 high school students across California spent their summer getting hands-on experience doing stem cell research at nine universities in the state. On August 7th, CIRM hosted Creativity Day in San Mateo which showcased the accomplishments of the students. The remarkable, young students gave graduate-level research presentations and showed off posters of their scientific findings to their lab mentors, the CIRM team, and proud family members. As part of their internship, students also submitted blogs and instagram photos about their time in the lab. And a few groups produced fabulous, inventive videos that parodied popular songs by the likes of Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Carly Rae Jepsen. Over the course of the three-year CIRM Creativity Awards program, our agency has supported 220 high school students in stem cell research internships.

The Latest Publications by CIRM-Funded Researchers

CIRM grantees are making steady progress on understanding the fundamentals of stem cell biology and moving stem cell-based therapies toward clinical trials. Here's an example of CIRM-funded research that was published in August along with a press release from the grantees' home institution and an entry from The Stem Cellar, CIRM's official blog:

August 24th - Cell Stem Cell

Upcoming CIRM Events

September 24th: CIRM Board Meeting
The CIRM governing Board will hold a telephonic meeting on September 24th. Agendas and details will be posted to the meetings page 10 days before each event. 

October 7th-9th: Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa
The Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa is a three-day conference bringing together senior executives and top decision-makers in the regenerative medicine and advanced therapies industry with the scientific community to advance cutting-edge research into cures. CIRM President and CEO, C. Randal Mills, and several CIRM-grantees are scheduled to speak at the event. 

October 14th: Stem Cell Awareness Day
October 14th marks Stem Cell Awareness Day 2015, which brings together organizations and individuals around the world working to ensure that we realize the benefits of one of the most promising fields of science in our time. The day is a unique global opportunity to foster greater understanding about stem cell research and the range of potential applications for disease and injury. Visit our stem cell awareness day page frequently for updates on the day's events. 


CIRM 2.0 Funding Opportunities



Our Discovery and Translational Stage Programs will be announced later this year. 

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CIRM Job Openings

The following positions are now open. Follow the links below to apply or go to our jobs page: