Sunday, June 14, 2009

CIRM Pulls a Grant, Aggressive Monitoring Reported

In what appears to be a first, the California stem cell agency has pulled at least one grant from one of its researchers, apparently because of a lack of progress.

Don Gibbons, CIRM's chief communications officer, confirmed the action in response to a query from the California Stem Cell Report.

Gibbons refused to disclose the identity of the researcher or the institution, declaring that more details would be forthcoming in a report to the CIRM board of directors from President Alan Trounson at its meeting in San Diego on Wednesday and Thursday.

We asked CIRM about the withdrawal after we were told by another source that one grant had, in fact, been been pulled and some “push-back” was coming from institutions. At the last CIRM board meeting in April, a report on grant monitoring was on the agenda but was removed with no explanation.

Here are the questions we directed to Gibbons last week.
“Can you confirm or deny that a grant has been pulled?
“Are institutions pushing back in any form whatsoever?
“Are any of the board members involved in any way whatsoever in reactions to monitoring of grantees' progress?
“What was the reason for removal of the monitoring item from the agenda last month?
“Will it be rescheduled?
“Do you have any other comments on this general subject? “
Gibbons replied,
“Yes, we have pulled at least one grant, but the leadership of the science office uniformly reports they are not getting push back from the institutions. No board members were involved in the process. The last board agenda was jammed so plans were made to include the progress reports in the President’s Report for the upcoming meeting. You can hear the details then.”
(The last board meeting ended at 1:24 p.m. on April 29, which is early for most board meetings.)

Gibbons has not responded to an additonal question on June 10 seeking the identity of the researcher and the grant number, both of which are public record.

Marie Csete, chief scientific officer for CIRM, and her staff have been aggressive in checking progress on CIRM grants, we have been told. Some grantees have been surprised and have complained that the NIH does not follow the same practice.

CIRM is to be lauded for monitoring the grants carefully. While strong oversight of grants may be bothersome to some researchers, institutions and perhaps some CIRM directors, it is a healthy practice that should stand CIRM in good stead when it faces its skeptics.

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