Monday, December 10, 2012

Four Researchers File Appeals with Stem Cell Board for Millions of Dollars

Two more scientists are seeking to overturn rejection by reviewers of their applications for millions of dollars from the California stem cell agency, bringing to four the number of appeals in the award round to be considered Wednesday by agency directors.

The latest two are Sanaz Memarzadeh of UCLA and Eugenio Cingolani of Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Memarzadeh is seeking $3.1 million for research into the causes of endometriosis. Cingolani is seeking $2.8 million to research the possibility of a stem-cell based heart pacemaker.

Both have filed “extraordinary petitions” with CIRM, an appeals process that the Institute of Medicine last week said should be jettisoned by the agency. The IOM said the petitions undercut the integrity of the grant review process. At the same time, directors of the agency are mulling changes in the appeals process, which has seen a record number of appeals, including emotional presentations by patients at board meetings. Both petitions were written prior to the release of the IOM report.

In her petition, Memarzadeh said,
Sanaz Memorzadeh
UCLA photo
“Endometriosis is the third most common non-lethal chronic disease in California affecting 1 in 10 reproductive age women and costing the state $25 billion annually.”
Endometriosis occurs when cells from the uterus grow in other areas of the body often causing debilitating pain and sometimes pelvic cysts, according to the NIH, and the best chance for a cure is removal of reproductive organs.

Memarzadeh said the cause is unknown as are the best ways to treat the affliction. She wrote,
“To our knowledge CIRM has not funded any work related to women’s gynecologic diseases. Funding work related to endometriosis through this proposal is an opportunity for CIRM to fill a critical gap and make a major impact in this understudied field of research.”
Eugenio Cingolani
Cedars Sinai photo
Cingolani also said his research is not represented in the CIRM portfolio. He said,
“While CIRM has laudably invested in ischemic heart disease studies, no grants have been awarded in the area of heart rhythm disorders. This is a huge area of public health need. The current application has the potential to fill an important gap in the current CIRM translational research portfolio, expanding the focus to treat heart rhythm disorders.”
In this round, which was budgeted at $80 million, 12 grants were approved by reviewers. Fifteen were rejected. The amount required for the 12 grants is $36.2 million.

The stem cell agency did not release the scores of the grants that were rejected. They are likely to be disclosed at the Wednesday meeting.


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