A state agency that manages voter-approved stem cell research grants has awarded nearly $6 million to City of Hope for a clinical trial to treat severe sickle cell disease.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded $5.74 million to the Duarte medical center for a phase 1 trial to test a new blood stem cell transplantation procedure for adults with SCD.

City of Hope has already conducted 27 bone marrow stem cell transplants from genetically matched donors for sickle cell, making its transplant program one of the largest in the nation.

Dr. Joseph Rosenthal, chief of the City of Hope division of pediatric hematology/oncology and the trial’s principal investigator, announced March 2 that the novel procedure aims to reduce their side effects.

“City of Hope believes this treatment will improve the quality of life of patients while also reducing the risk of graft-versus-host disease and transplant-related complications,” he said in a statement. “Our hope is that this treatment can be eventually offered to SCD patients as a curative therapy.”

In 2004, California voters approved a $3 billion initiative to fund stem cell research that by early this year had funneled more than $620 million into Los Angeles County.

By mid-January, CIRM had issued 33 grants to City of Hope worth $90 million. Of those, City of Hope just returned the state’s first royalty payment of $190,000 for a therapy for a deadly brain cancer, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Advocates for stem cell research have proposed a $5 billion ballot measure to shore up the state’s stem cell agency, which is slated to run out of funds next year.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.