Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Six Rejected Grant Applicants Make Public Appeal to CIRM Board

Six research teams that lost out in CIRM's closed door reviews of their applications for up to $20 million dollars are now seeking to overturn the decisions.

The rejected applicants include three from Stanford(Irv Weissman, Judith Shizuru and Gary Steinberg), one from the City of Hope (Karen S. Aboody) in Duarte, Ca., one from UC Irvine(Aileen Anderson) and one from the Buck Institute(Xianmin Zeng) in Novato, a town north of of San Francisco.

Their “extraordinary petitions” are not yet available on the board's agenda, but their existence was confirmed by John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca. Simpson was attending the meeting in Los Angeles and supplied the applicants' identities from CIRM documents available at the session.

We queried him about the petitions after hearing a partial comment on the Web audiocast of the meeting, which has been largely muddled at our location in Mazatlan.

Simpson also said that one key board member told him that the six petitions raise “substantive scientific issues.” The efforts to overturn the negative results raise some other interesting issues because CIRM budgeted $210 million for the disease team grant round while reviewers only approved $167 million.

The extraordinary petition process is relatively new at CIRM. It was created in September 2008 in response to public appearances by rejected applicants at CIRM board meetings. None have been successful using that method and none have been successful in using the extraordinary petition process.

A number of board members have been clearly uncomfortable with the public presentations by unhappy applicants. They have also been loath to overturn the decisions of the Grants Working Group and the scientists who are members of it.

The issue bubbled up in June 2008, leading to an extended public board discussion of the appeal or reconsideration process. CIRM allows "appeals" only in the case of conflicts of interest on the part of reviewers. However, reviewers do not have to publicly disclose their economic or professional interests.

The extraordinary petition process requires the applicant to file a request for reconsideration five days prior to a directors meeting. CIRM's president will then evaluate it and make a finding on whether it has merit.

Here is an account of how the petition process worked last January.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly said the petitions were not available on the CIRM Web site.)

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