CIRM grants two biotech firms nearly $20 million for possible treatments for diabetes and a rare blood disorder

California Stem Cell

Paul Sakuma/AP

This March 16, 2012 photo shows a researcher working in a stem cell research lab. California’s stem cell agency has awarded two private biotech companies, ViaCyte Inc. and Bluebird Bio, nearly $20 million toward the development of treatments for diabetes and for a sometimes fatal genetic blood disorder.

California’s stem cell agency has awarded two private biotech companies nearly $20 million toward the development of treatments for diabetes and for a sometimes fatal genetic blood disorder.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) announced Thursday it's awarding $10.1 million dollars to La Jolla-based ViaCyte, Inc. for its work on a stem cell treatment for insulin-dependent diabetes patients.

Thursday’s grant brings to Bluebird Bio for its stem cell and gene therapy work into “B-thalassemia” - an inherited blood disorder that can cause organ damage and premature death in young patients.

The two grants are the first from CIRM’s new Strategic Partnership Awards Initiative designed to attract more industry investment into CIRM-funded stem cell research.

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