Tuesday, June 05, 2007

CIRM Gives Away $50 Million for Stem Cell Labs

"We have to be as generous as we can," said Duane Roth, a member of the Oversight Committee that controls the $3 billion California state stem cell research effort.

The comment from the CEO of Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp. came shortly before the board approved its first-ever laboratory grants – some $50 million to 17 institutions. Twenty-two applied.

Roth echoed comments from others on the 29-member committee. Claire Pomeroy, dean of the UC Davis Medical School, said, "We're building an array of services across the state."

A handful of the committee members raised questions about whether the panel should be more or less generous than reviewers who made recommendations to the full committee. David Baltimore, former president of Caltech, said, "When a vote has been taken, it sets a very high bar to change that recommendation."

He said the Oversight group should exercise lest it undercut the grant review process.

CIRM's press release said:
"These facilities are scheduled to be complete and available to researchers within six months to two years of the grant awards.

"The grants will fund dedicated laboratory space for the culture of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), particularly those that fall outside federal guidelines. (Current federal policy prohibits research involving hESCs isolated after August 2001 from being conducted in laboratories constructed with any federal funding.) CIRM’s grants will support the development of core laboratories to be used by multiple investigators that may be shared by multiple institutions, and provide an environment for scientific research on hESCs under CIRM’s medical and ethical standards."
It continued:
"The grants will provide funds for the design and renovation of laboratory space, equipment for the new research facilities, and operating expenses for three years. Six of the recipient institutions will receive additional funds to provide training courses for scientists and technical staff in the growth and maintenance of hESCs."
The release quoted stem cell Chairman Robert Klein as saying,
"'Today we passed the $200 million mark in funding for embryonic stem cell research. The grants approved today are a prelude to the $222 million in major facility grants we’ll consider early next year. It’s critically important that California provide a ‘safe harbor’ where scientists can work on new stem cell lines without endangering their institutions’ federal funding. It’s equally important that we help finance new facilities to house the growth of this emerging life sciences field. These grants establish a great collaborative model that leverages the intellectual capital of California’s leading scientific institutions for the benefit of all Californians.'"
Here are the recipient institutions: Salk Institute, $2.3 million; Buck Insitute, $4.1 milion including a stem cell techniques funding course; Scripps, $1.7 million; UC Davis, $2.8 million; UCLA, $2.9 million; UC Santa Cruz, $2.7 million; Children's Hospital Los Angeles, $2.8 million; UC Riverside, $2.9 million; Burnham Insitute, $3.8 million including course funding; Gladstone Institutes, $1.7 million; Stanford, $4.1 million including course funding; UC Berkeley, $2.1 million; UC Santa Barbara, $2.3 million; UC San Diego, $2.8 million; UC San Francisco, $3.9 million including course funding and USC $3.6 million including course funding.
 
UC campuses in Davis, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz as well as Scripps moved into funding positions after receiving "mixed" recommendations from the two initial review groups.

Fourteen representatives from the institutions applying for the grants sit on the Oversight Committee. All but one of those institutions, the City of Hope, received funding. Oversight Committee members are barred by law from voting on or participating in discussions involving grants to their institutions.

Only one mainstream media reporter was present for the today's session, Terri Somers, of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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