Sunday, October 15, 2006

SEED Grant Applications Pour Into CIRM

The California stem cell agency was flooded last Friday with applications for the $24 million SEED grant program but the exact number is not expected to be released until Monday.

Initially, 301 letters of intent were filed for about 30 SEED grants with 78 letters for the $80 million comprehensive grant program. Roughly 40 California institutions were represented. The names of those filing letters of intent and applications for public funding are secret. Only those winning grants will be identified by CIRM.

Nearly overwhelmed by the numbers, CIRM earlier asked institutions to certify that letters of intent were filed by "principal investigators." Dale Carlson, a spokesman for CIRM, said "only five or six" letters were eliminated as a result of the certification process.

On Oct. 1, we reported concerns that the certification effort was unfair and penalized younger scientists. (See "whittling down the researchers.") That issue came up indirectly during last week's meetings of the Oversight Committee.

Chairman Robert Klein noted that one of the goals of the agency is to expand the number of stem cell researchers. He asked CIRM President Zach Hall whether a future round of grants would be proposed to advance that effort.

John Reed, a member of the Oversight Committee and president of the Burnham Institute, also indicated that younger researchers ought to be encouraged.

Hall responded that the SEED grant program was not meant for staff scientists or post-doctoral applicants. He indicated that a grant program aimed at younger scientists could be worthwhile sometime in the future.

To help deal with the imposing number of grants, the Oversight Committee last week added 18 alternate members to the grants working group in addition to the existing 16 alternates. Fifteen scientists sit as regular members of the group.

Just how the review process will work is not entirely clear. The California Stem Cell Report plans to post an item in the near future dealing with the mechanics of how the reviewers will go through the grants.

The agency has scheduled Nov. 28-30 for review of the SEED grant applications by the Grants Working Group. Applications for comprehensive grants are due Nov. 13 and scheduled to be reviewed Jan. 8-10. Sphere: Related Content

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