Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tighter Controls on Stem Cell Grant Budgets Hits Quorum Bump

SAN FRANCISCO – A move to tighten budget controls on grants from the $3 billion California stem cell agency stalled Monday, but it appears that the plan is headed for ultimate approval.

The proposal was up for consideration by the agency's directors' Science Subcommittee, which could not act on it after it lost its quorum.

Members of the panel generally favored the stronger budget controls, but had questions about the specifics of implementing the plan during closed-door reviews of grant applications. The proposal is likely to be altered to respond to those concerns. It would then either come back to the Science Subcommittee or go to the full board.

The plan would make it clear to recipients of large grants that approval of an application by the agency's governing board does not provide a carte blanche to researchers. Ellen Feigal, senior vice president for research and development, said it can be “extremely difficult” for CIRM staff to deal with budget problems in grants following board approval.

The committee also approved a plan to speed the application process on its next disease team round, which is aimed at driving research into the clinic. The concept proposal for that round is scheduled to come before directors later this month. The round will be limited to “more mature stage” research that is close to a clinical trial, if not in one. Feigal said 10 to 15 applications are expected.

Another proposal to add more millions to CIRM's strategic partnership program was also approved.
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