Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weissman's $20 Million Proposal Dodges Rejection

A $20 million grant application from reknown scientist Irv Weissman of Stanford tonight avoided disaster as CIRM directors overturned a decision by scientific reviewers to reject the proposal.

The application was moved, 14-2 vote with two directors abstaining, into the top tier of disease team grants that are headed for approval by the directors tomorrow morning.

Another $20 million application from Stanford's Gary Steinberg was also moved into the first tier on a separate vote, which was either 13-3 or 12-4. One director's vote was inaudible on the Web audiocast.

The Steinberg and Weissman applications bring to 13 the number of grants in the first tier for a total of $207 million. That is just under the $210 million budgeted for the disease team effort, the largest research grant round in CIRM history.

Both applications were the subject of an “extraordinary petition,” along with four other applications. One of those efforts was not successful tonight. No director made a motion to move a $12 million proposal by Aileen Anderson of UC Irvine to the first tier.

(Weissman's petition can be found here, Steinberg's here, Anderson's here. The other petitions are from Judith Shizuru of Stanford(here), Karen S. Aboody of the City of Hope(here) in Duarte, Ca., and Xianmin Zeng of the Buck Institute(here) in Novato, a town north of of San Francisco.)

The directors have recessed until tomorrow morning. They did not take up the other petitions tonight as they worked their way through the grants that CIRM's grant reviewers said were not worthy of funding. Weissman's application received a scientific score of 65, below the cutoff line of 70. Steinberg's and Anderson's scores were not available.

Regarding the Weissman application, CIRM Chairman Robert Klein said some of the reviewers may have been less than objective because they do not believe that cancer stem cells exist. The subject is a matter of some scientific dispute. CIRM President Alan Trounson disagreed with Klein on the possibility of prejudice but said that the grant could be worthy of funding.

Director Ted Love, who served as CIRM's chief scientific officer during the review, said the board could feel comfortable funding the grant or not. He said he did not think it would be “unwise” to fund the application.

Weissman's name was not mentioned during the discussion, but some commented about respect for the principal investigator. The United Kingdom is also involved in the grant, providing an additional $4.3 million, according to Trounson.

The board is scheduled to resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. PDT tomorrow in Los Angeles. CIRM has scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference to formally announce the grant winners. The meeting will be audiocast on the Web. Directions for listening are on the agenda. Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment