Tuesday, January 03, 2006

California Universities Not Waiting for CIRM Cash

California universities are plunging ahead with multimillion dollar stem cell programs despite the failure – so far – of the California stem cell agency to deliver on promised grants.

That's the report in the Los Angeles Times this morning by writer Rong-Gong Lin II.

According to the story:

"'We are … not waiting,' said Arnold Kriegstein, director of UC San Francisco's stem cell institute, which has also hired faculty and started preparing research facilities. 'We are moving ahead with what we can with private funding.'"
The Times said that UC San Francisco officials are using private fundraising to renovate about 7,000 square feet of lab space, expected to be ready in 10 to 11 months for new embryonic stem cell lines not approved by the federal government.

The story also said, however:
"Some (UCSF) researchers who had been eager to compete for grants for embryonic stem cell research have had to look for other sources of funding or areas of emphasis. Programs to train scientists in developing and maintaining human embryonic stem cells have stalled."
Here is the Times look at other schools:
"USC has lured a top scientist from the Australian Stem Cell Centre to head its new research institute and has committed $10 million this year to hiring faculty and renovating lab space." He is Martin F. Pera, whose lab was the second in the world to isolate embryonic stem cells from the human blastocyst, a developing embryo.

"UCLA has said it will spend at least $20 million over five years to recruit scientists and set up laboratories. It has already hired three young researchers for faculty positions, two from Harvard University and the other from Massachusetts Institute of Technology." The Times identified three of the hires as Hanna Mikkola, who is focusing on leukemia; Kathrin Plath, who was at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT and is studying the biology of how stem cells differentiate; and Amander Clark from UC San Francisco, who wants to see how stem cell research can help improve human fertility

"Stanford University has made several prominent hires, including two in May from Harvard and the University of Michigan. UC Irvine has begun planning a $60-million facility to house its program, and on Friday hired Peter Donovan, a prominent Johns Hopkins University professor, as an interim co-director."
Separately from the Times article, John Simpson, stem cell projector director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, commented on the hiring of Pera, but his remarks apply to the others as well:
"This just shows that Prop. 71 is having worldwide impact and that California is becoming the model for publicly funded stem cell research. If the ICOC is to fulfill the promises made to the voters, CIRM polices need to be grounded on three principles: affordability, accessibility and accountability."
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