Saturday, July 14, 2007

CIRM Panel Sets Lab Criteria, Nitty Gritty Still Pending

Much work remains to be done on the details for the criteria for $220 million in stem cell research lab grants to California universities and research institutions, but “great progress” was achieved earlier this week, according to one long longtime observer.

John M. Simpson
, stem cell project director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said the lengthy session “accomplished a lot.” He wrote in an email that the

"CIRM staff needs to fill in major details with draft language now that broad policy objectives have been set. It was a long meeting, but a necessary one if the public is to have faith in the mechanism of doling out $220 million in building grants."

Simpson, who was a newspaper editor for many years prior to his current position, offered this account of this week's events.

The Facilities Working Group during a marathon seven-hour meeting Thursday unanimously decided to require that the 20 percent matching requirement necessary under Prop. 71 to receive a facilities grant be made in cash.

The eight FWG members present also agreed to refer to amounts contributed to a project beyond the 20 percent threshold as "leverage."

The panel selected five criteria to use in making the awards and the points
that would be awarded to each of the criteria. Assuming that an applicant
could receive 100 points, the criteria and and possible value are:

--Urgency (20 points)
--Value (25 points)
-- Leverage (25 points)
--Functionality (15 points)
-- Shared resources (15 points)

The members considered the possibility of using a scale with more total
points as long as the ratio among the criteria remained the same and
suggested CIRM staff give that further thought.

All agreed that if CIRM is to maximize its impact on stem cell research
facilities across California, it will be necessary to encourage institutions
to bring as much "leverage", that is cash, to building projects as possible.

"We'll have to get substantial cash leverage," said Bob Klein, ICOC
chairman.

All of the procedures and criteria developed by the FWG for the proposed
$220 million in facilities grants must be approved by the ICOC.

The FWG also voted to recommend that grant recipients be required to use
buildings financed with CIRM money for regenerative medicine for a definite
period of time, perhaps 10 or 20 years. They decided to leave the exact time
requirement to be determined by the ICOC.

The panel also developed definitions for each of the criteria. The next step
is for the CIRM staff to propose draft language for standards to evaluate
each of the criteria. The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of
"interested parties" (representatives of institutions likely to seek money)
on July 25.

The FWG will is expected to meet July 30 to complete its recommendations so
they can be forwarded to the ICOC for its August meeting.

Arlene Chiu, acting chief scientific officer, outlined a proposal to consider a two-step process to review the facilities grants. They would be reviewed first by the Scientific Working Group for scientific merit and then be forwarded to the ICOC. After ICOC review, the proposals would go to the
Facilities Working Group for review and recommendation to the ICOC.

The FWG did not act on that proposal because by that point in the meeting it
was short of a quorum, Joan Samuelson and Stuart Laff, having departed around 6 pm. The consensus appeared to be that the staff recommendation made sense.

Other committee members attending were: David Lichtenger, chairman; Klein; Edward Kashian; David Serano Sewell; Janet Wright and Jeff Sheehy. Around 20 people, mostly representatives of institution seeking money, attended.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item did not include Janet Wright as one of the committee members attending the Facilities Group meeing.)

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