Monday, April 26, 2010

CIRM's Nearly $6 Million Carrot

The California stem cell agency this week is expected to pony up $5.9 million to help lure an unidentified but “emerging leader” in cancer stem cell research to the Golden State.

The multi-year grant is the first in CIRM's fledgling program to assist California institutions with recruiting top talent from elsewhere in the country.

In keeping with its policy of secrecy concerning the names of applicants, the agency did not disclose either the name of the individual or the institution involved. But you can read a summary of reviewer comments here in which they gave the application a score of 83 out of 100.

No other applications were listed in the first round of what CIRM calls its Research Leadership Awards Program. The $44 million, two-year effort is aimed at recruiting top talent – “the most productive and promising early-to-mid career scientists in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.”

The program stands to benefit some of 14 or so institutions that have representatives (some have more than one) on the 29-member CIRM governing board, which will vote on the application from the researcher Wednesday or Thursday at its meeting in the Los Angeles area. CIRM staff does not reveal the names of the applicant or institution to directors.  If a director has a conflict on an agenda item, he or she is not permitted to vote on the matter or even take part in the discussion. Following the vote, CIRM will disclose the winner in a press release.

The initial response to the recruitment assistance program seems modest, but CIRM is aiming to attract perhaps only eight researchers. And that depends on whether institutions such as the University of California, Salk, Scripps and others can offer up suitable candidates. At one point Kevin Eggan and Amy Wagers, both of Harvard, were identified in stem cell scuttlebutt as possible targets of the recruitment effort. But it is unclear whether they are still in play.

The awards are likely to draw more attention as institutions and potential candidates begin to focus on the largess to be approved later this week.

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