The five-year "faculty award" program is aimed at drawing the best and brightest into stem cell research in California and not just embryonic stem cell research. Arlene Chiu, CIRM's former top scientist, said earlier this year,
"These grants are designed to encourage newly independent investigators to pursue bold and innovative studies across the full range of stem cell types – human and animal, embryonic and adult. We will consider providing successful applicants salary and research funding for up to five years, ensuring that they have stable, secure financial support as they begin their independent scientific careers."Applications for the grants came from researchers at 28 organizations. Eleven University of California and California State University campuses are represented. (The California State University system is separate from UC). Four private universities submitted applications. Thirteen non-profit research institutions also applied. However, none of the names of the institutions or the individuals were publicly released, in keeping with CIRM's policy of secrecy on grant applications.
The faculty program is the main item on the agenda for next week's meeting, but other noteworthy items are including. Some details of what is to be considered are currently available on CIRM's web site, well in advance of the meeting. Sometimes the agency has been remiss in providing information in a timely fashion, but the early posting of information is essential if the agency is to engage the public and keep its constituencies and backers truly informed.
Here is a quick run-down on the agenda and the status of the supporting information:
--Grants administration policy for grants to private businesses – key item for the private sector – Draft of policy posted
--Boost in compensation for scientists reviewing grants from $500 daily to $2,000 per meeting, regardless of the number of days – background posted along with short bios on new scientific members of the Grants Working Group, which is the group that reviews research applications
--$300,000 annual conference program to be controlled by the CIRM president – background posted
--Research standards – background posted on "consent calendar" item
The following items have no background posted on CIRM's web site at the time of this writing, five business days prior to the meeting:
--$85 million faculty award program
--Additional funding for $227 million lab grant program to be awarded next year
--Compensation and relocation allowance for incoming president Alan Trounson
--Intellectual property policy for grants to businesses – This is a major item for the private sector.
--Changes in CIRM's internal governance policy and review of CIRM's organization chart – This is likely to concern the sometimes tenditious past relationships involving the president and chairman of CIRM, creating a new structure aimed at keeping Trounson and stem cell Chairman Robert Klein happy. It could also involve allocation of additional staff to Klein, which he has been seeking for some months.
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this post was garbled. An earlier version also incorrectly reported that the increase in reviewers' honorariums would be to $2,000 per day instead of per meeting.)