Thursday, June 02, 2005

Competition for Creation of a Stem Cell Cadre

Twenty-seven California institutions are competing for a share of the first $45 million in grants from the California stem cell agency. It is a contest that will not attract the headlines of the HQ battle but one that is far more important.

The grants, which would be the agency's first, are aimed at creating a cadre of stem cell researchers in California who will push their research into clinical applications. Some grants could range as high as $1.25 million each annually to support as many as 16 "CIRM scholars."

The total of $45 million is expected to be spread out over three years among 18 universities, non-profit academic and research institutions with the first grants being awarded possibly as early as September.

"We are delighted at the robust response to our first call for grants. California’s next generation of scientists and clinicians is clearly eager to begin training for stem cell research and the development of new therapies for disease,” said Zach Hall, CIRM’s interim president. “These grants will create a vital foundation for future stem cell research in California.”

The agency's press release said that the grants are designed to encourage "institutions to create programs in which basic and clinical scientists are trained together in order to promote the flow of information from the laboratory to the clinic. Institutions are also required to offer a course in the social, legal and ethical implications of stem cell research as part of their curricula."

The agency envisions a three-tiered program with both large and small insitutions participating. Here is how CIRM described them.
  • A "comprehensive training program will educate at the pre-doctoral, post-doctoral and clinical levels. A Type I institutional grant will support up to 16 CIRM Scholars and operate on a total budget of up to $1.25 million per year.
  • An "intermediate training program will offer training at two of the three levels of education mentioned above. Type II grants may support up to ten CIRM Scholars at a given institution with a total budget of $800,000.
  • A "specialized training program will fund up to six CIRM Scholars at a total budget of $500,000."

The grants are aimed at educating students from "scientifically diverse backgrounds—including the relevant fields of biology, clinical training programs, bioengineering, as well as ethics and the law," the agency said.

"Because of the diversity of the California population, CIRM is particularly interested in training a diverse pool of investigators, including under-represented minorities, as CIRM Scholars and Mentors," the agency said.

The institutions, whose names were not immediately available, filed letters indicating their interest in the CIRM training program. The actual grant applications are due July 1.

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