Monday, February 11, 2008

More Than 100 Requests for CIRM Millions

California's stem cell agency and its dauntless grant reviewers have more than their share of work cut out for them this spring.

More than 100 new applications for some of CIRM's swag have arrived at its headquarters in San Francisco. They include the first ever applications from private businesses.

The applications come on top of the ambitious $262 million in lab grants, which are scheduled to be awarded this spring and which are the largest single round of grants in CIRM history.

Fifty fresh applications, including 12 from business, have been received for the $25 million new cell line program. Only 16 are scheduled to be awarded so the competition will be tough. The number of applicants is down from those announced for letters of intent. Fifty-seven organizations, including 15 businesses, wrote intent letters.

Alan Trounson, president of CIRM, said in a news release,
"We are pleased to have received applications to support research across the spectrum of approaches used to derive pluripotent stem cell lines. Advances in new technologies such as induced pluripotency, while promising, are in their infancy in terms of being able to drive therapies and cures for disease and injury. Therefore, to ensure that research moves forward in all of the areas that have potential to deliver medical advances to patients, these grants will fund the derivation of new cell lies from both the well-established means of human embryonic stem cells, which remain the gold standard for research into pluripotent cells, as well as new technologies."
Another 59 applications were received for 20 disease team planning grants of up to $55,000 each in a program totaling only $1 million. However, the planning grants are prelude to $122 million in disease team grants. Sixty-six organizations sent letters of intent for the planning phase. Nine businesses actually applied, although 10 earlier sent letters of intent to apply..

Trounson said,
"Our ultimate goal is to fund research that will deliver stem cell therapies and cures to patients. By funding this innovative disease team approach that encourages early collaboration among experts in the many disciplines and functions involved in moving a concept from preclinical research into the clinic, we hope to facilitate rapid advances across a broad spectrum of diseases. A key objective of the subsequent Disease Team Research Award will be for teams to produce an approvable regulatory filing enabling human clinical testing within four years after the award."
The scientific members of the group that reviews the grant applications in private come from outside California to avoid possible conflicts of interest. However, their statements of economic interests are not made public by CIRM. The other members of the panel are patient advocates who sit on CIRM's board of directors.

The group's recommendations go to CIRM's board of directors (the Oversight Committee), which has final authority. However, it has never rejected a recommendation for funding from the grant review group, as far as we can remember. Sphere: Related Content

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