Thursday, January 27, 2011

California Stem Cell Agency Hands Out $41 Million

The California stem cell agency has awarded $32 million to researchers to help them devise technology to overcome obstacles to development of stem cell therapies, part of $41 mllion in spending approved today.

In approving 19 tools and technology grants, CIRM directors rejected four appeals of negative recommendations from reviewers. That included a petition by Stanford researcher Stefan Heller that raised a number of policy questions that went beyond purely scientific issues. A fifth rejected application by Martin G. Martin of UCLA was sent back to the grant review group for additional consideration including new information.

According to CIRM's news release, three businesses and seven institutions were among the recipients. some of which received more than one grant. The businesses are Gamma Medica-Ideas, Inc. of Northridge, Ca., $1.5 million; GMR Epigenetics of Palo Alto, Ca., $1.5 million, and Fluidigm Corp. of South San Francisco, $1.9 million. The biotech industry has complained about receiving short shrift on their applications for CIRM cash.

CIRM directors also created a $6.6 million visiting faculty program. According to the agency,
"The CIRM Visiting Faculty Award will operate through supplemental awards to existing CIRM-funded research grants, all of which have been peer reviewed and approved by the ICOC. The funds will enable a sabbatical researcher (Visiting Scientist) to work on an existing CIRM-funded research project for 6-12 months. The supplemental CIRM funds will cover up to 50% of the Visiting Scientist's salary and fringe benefits costs, with the remainder being paid by the Visiting Scientist’s home institution."
Applications will be submitted by the recipient of an existing research grant – who would be known as the "host scientist." The proposal envisions up to 30 awards with decisions on awards being made by CIRM staff.

Directors also approved a $2 million grant to Fred Gage of the Salk Institute in the early translational round. The application, which deals with Parkinson's Disease, originally totalled nearly $4 million when directors considered it last October. Scientific reviewers initially did not approve the Gage application for funding, but it was set aside by the directors for additional consideration. CIRM staff and a representative of the review group negotiated the scaling back of the grant size.

Additionally approved was a $250,000 program to subsidize attendance for about 80 recipients of CIRM training grants and 40 patient advocates at an international stem cell conference in Toronto in June. The program was originally proposed at $200,000 but was boosted to $250,000 by directors. Sphere: Related Content

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