Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CIRM Grant Program Stimulates More Comment

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights of Santa Monica, Ca., had this to say about the impressive show of interest in the $100 million in research grants being offered to California stem cell scientists.

From John M. Simpson, stem cell director for the foundation:
"The huge response to CIRM’s request for stem cell research grant proposals clearly demonstrates keen interest in the field by California’s scientists. More important than that, though, it underscores once again the need for complete transparency in the award process.

"People will want to know exactly how a pool of 350 applicants is cut to 55 grantees.

"It also demonstrates again the need for the full public disclosure of the financial interests of the scientific advisors who will winnow down the applications and recommend who gets the taxpayers’ money."
We should add that the 29-member Oversight Committee will make the final decisions on the grants. But it is unlikely to reach down into hundreds of applicants and pull out one that was rejected. The recommendations by the review committee will be de facto decisions in all but a tiny fraction of cases, as was demonstrated in the earlier round of grants for training programs in 2005.

That said, it does not detract from truly impressive outpouring of letters of intents. As Zach Hall, president of CIRM, declared:
"We are quite excited about the strong response for our first research grants. It's clear that California scientists are eager to get started. The excellent response ensures that we will have a vigorous, high quality program of human embryonic stem cell research in California."
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